For all its technical muscle, Silicon Valley is far from politically neutral. During the most recent election cycle, the entire tech industry seemed to focus on tearing down the conservative agenda. These efforts obviously failed, but will Silicon Valley play nice with conservatives now that Donald Trump runs the White House?
The new President-Elect does have at least a few inside tracks. Peter Thiel, billionaire founder of Paypal and no stranger to political dynamite and controversy, has been publicly backing Trump since June, openly igniting a firestorm after expressing many views that seemed more along the lines of a Rick Santorum rather than the center-right figure truck cut to bring home the general. Mark Zuckerberg met with top conservative news organizations and politicians during the 2016 election cycle to discuss the suppression of conservative news on the platform, and with new upstarts like Tomi Lahren from Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network now finding their core audience through Facebook, the tide seems to have turned at least a little.
Additionally, Tim Cook, Apple CEO, recently met with Trump to discuss how nationalist policies would affect the company’s international perspective. Although Cook has not affiliated himself openly with a political movement, the consensus seems to be that that the two are on speaking terms.
In short, the big boys of Silicon Valley seem to be jumping on board with the new administration. These are the leaders of companies that could literally buy every other company on the Hill with money to spare. Although the twenty-something startup culture still leans fiscally conservative and socially liberal, the fact is that they may have no choice but to play nice with Trump.
Many of the leaders of this younger startup culture also have much less leverage than one might think. The “unicorns” of Silicon Valley, defined as companies valued at more than $1 billion, are more than 50% owned by immigrants. 67% of the math-based workers in the Valley were born outside of the United States, and 33% of the total workforce there is foreign-born. If Trump cracks down on H1B visas, it could literally stop the economy of the region overnight. Valley liberals may have to curtail their political aspirations for the time being, or find an entirely new class of programmers and coders.
Many people have described Trump in interviews as the ultimate hedger. You can bet that the new President Elect has a strategy in line for the Valley if it somehow balks at its alpha dogs and decides to move in another political direction. Some media reports are circulating that Trump will try to re-nationalize the Internet, which Obama recently gave to the UN-lead body ICANN, a move that would place every company in the Valley under the auspices of a national security partner.
Perhaps Trump will not have to resort to the use of a domestic strongman policy; however, his history does point to certain instances that prove this is not beyond him. Will Silicon Valley play nice with Trump? Yes, if they know what’s good for them.
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