Published July 23, 2014
Here’s all the proof you need the bloom might be off the Obama rose. Some of his closest business buddies would rather hear from…Rand Paul.
I’m not kidding. The Kentucky Republican Senator has been making the Silicon Valley rounds, and turning more than a few heads.
You’re probably thinking, so what’s the big deal? These tech guys will listen to anybody, right? Actually, wrong. As a group, this famously entrepreneurial community has been in almost lockstep with Barack Obama. He was, after all, our first high tech president, the first to text his supporters, and at least before the Secret Service took his BlackBerry (BBRY) away, the first to personally email from the White House.
The president represented everything these tech guys loved – suave, smooth, hip, at ease with gadgets without appearing goofy with gadgets. Then something happened. Maybe it was this whole net neutrality thing, or the president all but selling off U.S. oversight of the Internet thing. Maybe it was the health-care law and its myriad regulations and taxes thing. Maybe it was the NSA spying and collecting millions of Americans’ phone records thing. Maybe it was just the creeping suspicion the government was getting creepy. Too intrusive, and for this notoriously laissez-faire crowd, too much.
To hear Silicon Valley entrepreneur Garrett Johnson tell it, Rand Paul seemed to get what the president apparently has not, and will not. As he told San Francisco KPIX 5 reporter Mark Kelly, “It’s not that I agree with him 100% of the time, I don’t agree with my parents 100% of the time, but I still go home for Christmas and Thanksgiving every year.”
But Paul sees something else going on here, and this likely Republican presidential candidate is pouncing on it. The president, he says, is anti-innovation. He’s anti-freedom. He’s anti-technology. By repeatedly bringing up the NSA scandal, Paul carefully picks a scab that reveals Silicon Valley’s still festering wound – its customers’ loss of confidence.
Many feel the White House betrayed them – not just by spying on them, but by not telling the very companies whose resources they tapped that they were spying on them. This double-breach of trust cuts to the core of Silicon Valley’s loss of faith in Washington; even more than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hammering them for shipping jobs overseas.
Does that make these techies conservative? Not likely. But it does reveal their more libertarian bent. Whether that makes them Conservatarians is anyone’s guess. But it clearly makes them more open to hearing from someone like Rand Paul, who’s as “government hands off” as any of the likely presidential candidates.
His privacy rights push predates his Washington climb, and that isn’t lost on these technology moguls either. The fact that both he and his father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, have staked their careers on government over-reach, it isn’t surprising to see this community reaching out to hear more from this curious Senator.
That doesn’t mean they’re falling in love with a Republican, but it does mean they are open to a Republican. If this starts ringing a bell, it should. Remember how Facebook (FB) Founder Mark Zuckerberg entertained New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at his California mansion last year? Remember as well how Cypress Semiconductor (CY) CEO T.J. Rodgers bemoaned both parties’ intrusions and regulations these past several years?
It’s a pattern, and a revealing one. That’s not to say this hip crowd is now a Grand Old Party crowd. But it is a restless crowd, and an increasingly ticked off one as well.
Rand Paul sensed that, and seized on that. Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a prominent Republican to walk into the belly of this supposedly liberal beast. But that was then. Something tells me one crafty Libertarian senses things are very different now.