In Silicon Valley, Conservatives Have Rough Time

Photo by Courtney Quirin.

Photo by Courtney Quirin.

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that conservatives are looking to woo the traditionally liberal-minded techies of Silicon Valley, both to gain their political support and some of their funding:

People who lean to the right are vastly outnumbered in the nation’s high-tech hub, and say they sometimes have to downplay their views.

“It does make you stand out a little bit. You have to be careful how you position yourself. You have to be careful what you say in public,” Eric Jackson, co-founder of CapLinked, said during a panel discussion Saturday about conservatives in the industry at the inaugural Lincoln Labs Reboot conference.

He noted that he was shining a spotlight on his views by taking part in the conference, before joking, “I guess I can kiss all my future venture capital funding goodbye.”

Liberal dominance in the valley has boosted Democratic campaigns with cutting-edge technology, allowing them to reach voters and raise money in innovative ways, while the GOP has suffered from a culture that led it to clash with its own technologists.

Hundreds of conservative and libertarian — or “conservatarian” — political operatives and techies gathered over the weekend in the liberal heart of California hoping to change that equation.

The Lincoln Labs Reboot conference featured a 24-hour hackathon in which 11 teams attempted to address various government challenges by coding innovative solutions. The top three, which split a $10,000 prize, created mobile polling software, an app to prevent internet tracking, and a service to make police deployment more effective.

Rand Paul, a keynote speaker at the conference, was impressed with the results, touting them as market solutions that government “will never come up with.” And Rand Paul is described as a natural fit for conservatives in the valley, who supported his father, former Representative Ron Paul in his two unsuccessful presidential campaigns.

But the free market ideology may not be enough for techies, who are staunchly opposed to the conservative social values of the Republican Party.

“For a lot of Silicon Valley and a lot of the technology community, the social issues are disqualifying,” said Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, who supports abortion and gay-marriage rights. “They won’t hear the rest of our economic agenda if we’re not with them socially.”

This includes issues like gay marriage, which is heavily supported by firms like Google, Apple, Facebook, Genentech and Netflix. Employees from each company made it out en masse to San Francisco’s 44th Pride parade, and many have supported the LGBT movement in different ways. Facebook, for its part, gave users the option of choosing from more than 50 gender identities earlier this year, and Google has put up rainbow-themed Easter eggs in support of Pride events in the past.

So while there may be overlap on economic issues, it seems that a more left-leaning social stance is a prerequisite for conservatives attempting to campaign in Silicon Valley. And they’ll have to be quick about it: Just today Hilary Clinton is touring Twitter headquarters, where she will give a talk on how her experience as Secretary of State has shaped her views on “human rights, domestic policy and other topics.”

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