Why Silicon Valley Leans Left


It should come as no surprise that the San Francisco Bay Area leans so far left it’s about ready to plunge into the Pacific Ocean.

While a few tech luminaries fund the GOP through large PAC donations – Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) chairman Larry Ellison, Hewlett Packard (NYSE:HPE) CEO Meg Whitman, and venture capitalists Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel and Bill Draper, to name a few – the vast majority of Silicon Valley donors, big and small, support the Democrats. The question is why?

The Republican Party is the business friendly party, is it not? If nothing else, the GOP stands for small government, entrepreneurship, fiscal responsibility, corporate tax reform and minimal regulation. At least the last time I checked it did.

You would think the tech elite would be falling all over themselves to stump for the likes of former HP chief Carly Fiorina and Senator Marco Rubio. Some do, but most don’t. Strange as that may seem, there are several reasons why, and some of them actually make sense ... in a twisted sort of way.

Diversity, inclusion and immigration reform

Silicon Valley has long suffered from a shortage of protected minorities and women among the STEM talent pool. With boardrooms that mostly resemble white good-old-boys clubs, the powers that be would do just about anything to support – or at least appear to support – diversity and inclusion and whitewash their lousy reputations (no pun intended).

Since Republicans have yet to figure out that they can no longer win a popular national election without courting the minority and female votes, the giants of technology really have nowhere left to turn but to the left. Not to mention that CEOs are desperate for immigrants who will code for a fraction of the salaries of American workers.

That’s why Rubio has gotten some traction among tech GOP donors, but even that’s sort of dicey given the hard-line conservative stance on immigration reform: seal the borders and fix the broken immigration system first and talk amnesty and H1B visa expansion later.

Silicon Valley is slowly migrating north to San Francisco.

While the Valley has always been relatively independent of its liberal neighbor to the north, that’s quickly changing as more and more tech companies and startups are calling San Francisco home.

BitTorrent, Dropbox, Fitbit, Flickr, Instagram, Jawbone, Lyft, OpenTable, Pinterest, Reddit, Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), Splunk, Square, Trulia, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), Uber, Wikimedia, Wired, Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) – it’s a long and growing list.

And I don’t care how autonomous, rich and powerful you think you are; peer pressure will take its toll and cultural norms will rub off on you wherever you live. Just ask a conservative who works in Hollywood … if you can find one.

We have our very own economy, or haven’t you heard.

About five months ago, a bunch of Silicon Valley VCs, CEOs and academic gurus wrote an Open Letter on the Digital Economy, to no one in particular, calling for sweeping changes in public policy, how we organize corporations and how our democracy functions in order to address the growing income inequality gap.

This group proposed a radical reengineering of the U.S. economy that would necessitate a massive government expansion and redistribution of wealth to pay for a guaranteed minimum income, a college education and a host of other entitlements. Needless to say, these folks will not be voting Republican anytime soon.

Besides, the Valley has so much money and power there simply isn’t much big government can do to us. We have the most valuable companies on Earth in Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google, top-rated research universities in Stanford and U.C. Berkeley and a network of VCs that are flush with cash. Not only do we have the greatest innovation flywheel in history, we’re quite adept at creating our very own bubbles without any help from Washington, thank you very much.

Cyber security, intellectual property and privacy rights

When I said that some of this would make sense, I was careful not to say all of it would. This is the part that has me completely baffled. You would think that tech CEOs would get all excited about legislation designed to protect their companies from overseas cyber attacks and intellectual property theft. And you’d be right.

Internet and telecom industry giants Apple, AT&T (NYSE:T), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) all supported GOP efforts to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which would help federal agencies to investigate cyber attacks and improve network security.

But get this: President Obama threatened to veto the bill over civil liberties and privacy concerns and Senate democrats ultimately blocked the legislation.

That’s just one of many reasons why the GOP should be able to align itself with the tech elite and the obscene amounts of power and money they wield. And yet, with so much at stake, they just can’t seem to pull it off. It makes no sense at all. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley remains a stronghold of the left. Go figure.