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The Party of Silicon Valley?

Nate Silver had an interesting piece yesterday which concludes based on statistical evidence (as opposed to wishful thinking) that President Barack Obama and the Democrats had won the support of “80 or 90 percent of the best and the brightest minds in the information technology field,” who reside and work in the San Francisco Bay Area and its peripheries. Some of the numbers that Silver provides:

  • Obama won the nine counties in the Bay Area by margins ranging from 25 percentage points in Napa Valley to 42 percentage points in Santa Clara (and its Silicon Valley) to 71 (!) percentage points in San Francisco. Overall the difference in percentage points between Obama and Romney in the Bay Area was 49 percent compared to 22 percent in California.
  • Republicans have been losing every county in the Bay Area by double-digit margin since 1988 with the margin of loss continuing to grow with each election.
  • Among employees who work for Google, Apple, and eBay Obama collected between 89 percent to 97 percent of the itemized political contributions this year. Silver also refers to a study that indicates that between the two presidential candidates, Obama raised 83 percent of the funds among the ten American information technology companies featured on Fortune magazine’s list of the 50 most admired companies.

Add to these figures the fact that Obama, according to a report on CNBC, carried eight of the ten richest of the counties in the nation, including Fairfax and Ludlum in Virginia, and it becomes clear that Romney’s former chief strategist Stuart Stevens still doesn’t get it, having made the case this week is that Obama and the Democrats had won thanks to the support of the underclass and minorities and by promoting a liberal agenda.

As I noted on this site, one of the minority groups that Obama won were Asian Americans whose median annual income is higher than that of whites in this country, and that Democrats are trending very well among educated and relatively affluent voters like these precisely because of the more liberal positions they advocate on social-cultural policy issues like abortion, gay marriage, and drug legalization.

Indeed, as Silver noted in his analysis, libertarian Republican candidate Ron Paul raised about $42,000 among Goggle workers, much more than the $25,000 that Romney collected, concluding that “perhaps a different kind of Republican candidate, one whose views on social policy were more in line with those of the Bay Area and the cultures of the leading companies there, could gather more support” among the Silicon Valley types.

It does indeed make a lot of sense for Republicans and libertarians to start promoting a “Silicon Valley Republican” brand that in theory could start attracting young, educated, and affluent voters into the GOP. But my guess is that such a strategy would face many obstacles.

While the libertarian agenda on social-cultural issues like drug legalization and gay marriage was advanced on November 6, there is no evidence of any growing support for libertarian economic positions in general, and among members of the “creative class” in places like the Silicon Valley or Fairfax County in particular. For example, I doubt very much that many of these voters share the more skeptical libertarian view on climate change or care a lot about the future of the Fed.

In any case, I am also very skeptical that the Republican Party is going to suddenly change its positions on abortion or drug legalization (although we may witness less ideological rigidness on gay rights). Liberal Democrats are better positioned now to push for more progressive legislation on these issues, while young voters now associate the Republican brand name with xenophobia, religious intolerance, gay-bashing, and war-mongering. In that context, a Silicon Valley Republican sounds to many of them like an oxymoron.

about the author

Leon Hadar is a foreign policy analyst, author, and contributing editor at TAC. He holds a Ph.D. from American University, and is the author of the books Quagmire: America in the Middle East and Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East. He is geopolitical expert with RANE Network, a former Cato Institute research fellow, and his articles have appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and the National Interest.

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