Donald Trump: The shock president Silicon Valley disdains

9 Nov 2016

Donald Trump. Image: Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock

Amid the fallout to what appears one of the weirdest, most hate-filled US presidential elections in recent times, Silicon Valley must be struggling to understand it all.

The home of many of the world’s leading tech organisations is in a state of mourning today, after Donald Trump surprisingly won the US presidential election.

Against the wishes of pretty much everyone involved in modern tech start-ups and multinationals dotted across the Californian Mecca, someone “disastrous” to innovation reigns supreme.

Future Human

Donald Trump

Bad for innovation

During the summer, almost 150 major names in the tech industry signed a letter on Medium slamming the candidacy of the now president-elect.

Among his many flaws, Trump’s attitude towards inclusivity and innovation simply didn’t add up with representatives from Apple, Reddit, Tumblr and more.

“He campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline,” they wrote.

“We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation.”

The importance of the H-1B visa system in the US, which many of these companies work with, is also in their sights – with Trump blaming it on an “influx of foreign workers”.

Bad for labour

This, Trump claims, keeps wages down and helps maintain high levels of unemployment.

“We need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed,” he said and, despite The Washington Post reporting his predilection to change his mind on the topic, messing with major employers’ stream of labour rarely pleases them.

Indeed, the active nature of Silicon Valley-based companies during the presidential campaign was distinctly noticeable. For example, Napster founder Sean Parker constructed a heavily reported $1m fundraiser for Hillary Clinton this year.

Elsewhere, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna pledged $20m to her campaign, more in protest of Trump than support for Clinton.

A good thing?

Of course, it wasn’t all one-way traffic. There was one notable vehicle heading in the same direction as Trump, with well-known investor Peter Thiel pinning his flag to the Republican’s mast.

Thiel recently said Trump “points toward a new Republican Party beyond the dogmas of Reaganism”, while campaigning for the hotel magnate.

“He points even beyond the remaking of one party to a new American politics that overcomes denial, rejects bubble thinking, and reckons with reality,” he said during the speech.

“When the distracting spectacles of this election season are forgotten and the history of our time is written, the only important question will be whether or not that new politics came too late.”

However, nobody high up in the tech industry was listening. Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao wrote extensively of her disdain for Thiel’s actions, and it doesn’t seem like she’s alone.

That letter from July – signed by tech luminaries such as Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple), Trevor Noah (co-founder of Cultivated Wit and host of The Daily Show), Ev Williams (co-founder of Medium), David Karp (founder of Tumblr), Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), Kim Malone Scott (CEO of Candor, Inc and ex-director of Google) and Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit) – could not have been more clear.

Who even knows anymore?

“We are inventors, entrepreneurs, engineers, investors, researchers and business leaders working in the technology sector,” they said.

“Proud” that the rest of the world looks on in envy at American innovation, the signatories claimed the US is “a source of widely shared prosperity, and a hallmark of our global leadership”.

“We believe in an inclusive country that fosters opportunity, creativity and a level playing field,” they wrote. “Donald Trump does not.”

The difference between then and now, though, was made clear in the past 24 hours. Silicon Valley companies supposedly shape the world. Facebook and Google are said to be two of the primary drivers of modern media.

Neither shaped the US presidential election in the way they wanted. So perhaps they’re not as powerful as we were led to believe.

Donald Trump. Image: Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic