“My general impressions of Silicon Valley and California, in general, is that Libertarian-style Republicans would do better out here, and that Bush Republicans haven’t been doing well out here in a long time,” the Senate’s uber-Libertarian, Rand Paul tells me, during his
check-cashing good-will tour to Silicon Valley.
Republicans desperately want better relations with Silicon Valley’s big-pocketed donors and top-tier programmers; the Senator’s solution is to show them that they can, in fact, love the small-government strain of conservatism.
It’s no shocker that Republicans have an uphill climb in the Bay Area, so I put some tough questions to Paul to see if he could dispel the stereotypes.
Literally, A Modern Party
“Most Republicans live in this century, not two or three centuries ago,” Paul said, in a diplomatic response to my question about his party’s notoriously anti-science perception in the Valley–notably the head of a congressional science committee calling evolution and the big bang “lies straight from the pit of Hell.”
In fairness to Paul, I’ve been outspoken about dispelling the myth of the luddite Republican: in the House of Representatives, conservatives are more savvy on social media, trailblazers in open government, and designed the most innovative tools in online direct participation.
Moreover, I think we can be sympathetic to Paul’s position of having to both appeal to the liberal bastion of San Francisco without alienating his base. As far as small-goverment conservatives eyeing the presidency go, Paul is as geninually libertarian as one can be and still be a viable candidate.
Winning Back Support
Though President Obama won a staggering 84% of the vote in San Francisco, Paul’s argues it’s because “we’re not reaching our potential” in appealing to the Valley’s libertarian strain. “I think, particularly in the tech world people are conscious of privacy concerns and I think they’re conscious of their civil liberties. I think many would like to see a Republican candidate or party that is less aggressive on foreign policy.”
For good measure, he struck a chord with California’s love of the wacky-tobaccy, adding that California citizens more apt to support politicians who don’t want to “lock people up and throw away the key for non-violent drug use.”
Republicans have made in-roads with some of the Valley’s wealthier donors, including big-time libertarian investors Peter Thiel, who gave $2.6 million to SuperPAC Paul’s father, Ron Paul, Endorse Liberty.
But, the sexier CEO’s in the valley, from Google’s Eric Schmidt to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, are outspoken Obama supporters. Paul has a ways to go.
In A Two Party System, 2nd Place Is Actually A Win
While Paul may not turn Silicon Valley red, there is a sizable portion of Bay Area conservatives that completely tuned out of politics after Bush and the Religious Right came to power. Paul tells me he thinks the Internet absolutely helped the Tea Party and the growing Libertarian movement dominate their socially conservatives cousins in the Republican party.
So, if Paul’s goal is simply to activate this latent Libertarian force inside the Valley, his trip will most likely be very productive.
Gay Marriage, Drones, and Government Research
On three issues of particular importance to the Valley, Paul has come under fire. For more of the political side of things, read the rest of my interview and analysis on The Daily Beast.