Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and a key investor in Facebook was, discovered to be on a ballot in California as a delegate for Donald Trump.
It came from Trump’s offices as an officially approved candidate, so we can safely say this isn’t just a malicious rumor.
But while it may come as a surprise that the so-called king-maker of Silicon Valley has gone red for Republican and not blue for Democrat, there have been many, many signs that suggest he has always been Republican. Some obvious, and others not so much.
For anyone believing that Silicon Valley represents a new, utopian vision on society, one free from partisan politics is sadly, and worryingly mistaken.
Thiel ❤️’s the Republican Party
Thiel has supported the Republican party for a long time. He was one of the biggest donors of Ron Paul’s unsuccessful presidential bid in 2012, donating $2.6 million. That same election cycle he backed Ted Cruz as well.
When asked by the Daily Caller why he funded Ted Cruz’s 2012 senate campaign, he replied:
I think he’s very smart. I think one of the challenges we have in the Republican party is that our representatives or senators are somewhat lower IQ than the people on the other side. So I think there’s something to be said for having very smart people in there.
That’s the same Ted Cruz that when typed into Google, the predictive text results are, shall we say, revealing about the public’s opinion of him.
There’s also a cottage industry around trying to prove Cruz is the Zodiac killer. But that’s another story for another time. Back to Thiel. So we know he’s a Republican through and through. But his personal political views are also very closely aligned with Trump’s.
The billionaire tech investor has been a staunch opponent of immigration. Back in 2008, Gawker found that Thiel had donated $1 million to NumbersUSA, an anti-immigration group that has consistently been labelled racist and a firm fan of active population control.
That same organization has an entire page dedicated to Trump’s views on the subject.
Beneath the donations and immigration views, Thiel also embodies a number of the core values at the heart of the Republican Party.
Thiel is everything the Republican party wants to be
He’s an isolationist
In 2009, Thiel wrote an essay in which he outlined his vision of a number of man-made islands built away from government intervention. The purpose, he said, was to, “escape from politics in all its forms.”
He then invested in the SeaSteading Institute which wanted to turn Thiel’s dream into a reality. The reason? He felt the government wasn’t doing enough to keep Silicon Valley stocked with foreign talent.
He’s anti government
Thiel has never hidden his distain of government. In his often referenced 2009 essay, “The Education of a Libertarian,” he said, “We are in a deadly race between politics and technology. . . . The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”
According to OpenSecrets, Thiel made over $5 million in political donations since 2004, and nearly all to groups that advocate for a smaller government.
“I don’t think we can solve any of our problems without technological progress,” said Thiel in his book, Zero to One.
“That is, in my mind, the single most important issue. It’s one that’s not particularly high on the political agenda of any of our leaders in Washington, most of whom are fairly scientifically illiterate and an uninterested or hostile to technology.”
That group was also Ted Cruz’s biggest single donor during his 2012 campaign, giving $705,657. In addition, the same group poured cash into Tea Party politician Tom Cotton. You know, the guy that tried to scupper the Iranian nuclear weapons talks.
All of these ideas Thiel advocates for have become entrenched in Republican dogma over the past twenty years. But perhaps more startling is that while Silicon Valley has been traditionally viewed as a home for Democrats – Obama raised more money from the region than he did from Wall Street and Hollywood – Thiel is not alone.
He’s not alone
Marc Andreessen, who sits on the board of Facebook, eBay and HP, has been known to donate to Republican the party on occasion.
In 2013, Andreessen Horowitz board partner Balaji Srinivasan called on tech entrepreneurs to make “the ultimate exit” and form a society of their own.
Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who is registered as an independent in California, stepped down in 2014 after critics attacked his 2008 donation to support Proposition 8, the anti-same-sex marriage law in California.
The Atlantic did a great piece on shy Republicans living in and around Silicon Valley.
There is no utopia here
Many commentators saw Silicon Valley as the birth place of a new type of politics, in which technology, not political allegiance is powering positive change.
But the opposite is true. Silicon Valley is dominated by extremely wealthy white men. No matter how wealthy, educated or rational someone is, they will always have a bias, or political view – and so will the companies they run.
Microsoft’s PAC gave $10,000 to Cruz during the 2012 electoral cycle, Google’s PAC gave $10,000, and Facebook’s PAC gave $3,500. Other top lobbying spenders in tech, like Comcast and Intel, gave Cruz $7,500 and $2,000, respectively.
Over on Vox, Timothy Lee did a great job characterizing this very political group. They may be unique, but what they are certainly not is apolitical. I wrote last month about how Tim Cook has turned Apple into a political juggernaut.
Just this week, news reports began swirling about Facebook artificially suppressing conservative news on its trending news tabs.
Companies like Facebook are becoming increasingly influential in how people consume ideas, both political and non. To think that the owners and executives have somehow managed to remove their political views from a company’s overall direction is a dangerous proposition.
So while the tech community continues to rail against the Thiel revelation, it should serve as cautionary tale that technology, and the people that own it, aren’t immune to political ideology.
We need to move beyond the idea that Silicon Valley is still a counterculture haven and start seeing it as just another partisan group of people in an increasingly partisan political climate.