Tech Giants Are Privately Considering Unprecedented Opposition To Trump
I gave up regular reporting last year to write longer columns, but I came upon some newsy news at the Democratic National Convention that was worth sharing with my readers. Major publicly traded tech companies are secretly mulling a variety of ways to oppose Donald Trump, including taking what would be an unprecedented stance: officially opposing his candidacy as a company.
It’s hard to understate how big a deal this is. Tech company CEOs regularly come out for and against candidates (Google’s Eric Schmidt personally worked on President Obama’s re-election campaign, for instance). But, companies don’t take stances on candidates: they usually play an extremely cautious game of backing both parties and only leverage lobbying resources to tackle issues that directly relate to the bottom line (like tax reform or high-skilled immigration policy).
But, given that Trump has actually come out and attacked tech companies and leaders, from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s immigration policies, things are different this time. Many in tech also tend to side with the magazine, The Economists, which ranked a Trump presidency as one of the 10 greatest threats to the global economy.
So, at the DNC, I began asking policy leads at major tech companies whether they could ever officially oppose him. “It is a question we are actively asking ourselves,” a policy Vice President of one the largest tech companies in the world told me on the condition of anonymity. For this Vice President, it was a far-gone conclusion that Trump was terrible for the country and his company; it’s now a matter of what was the most extreme position they could take.
Some are considering using money to support campaigns directly. Others are considering public messaging about the importance of diversity and inclusion. Given that many new tech company business models depend on people sharing news with their friends or opening up their homes to strangers, they see nationalism as a threat to their bottom line. Bigotry is bad for business.
The safe bet, I’m told, is to encourage more CEOs to speak out independently of the company, like a recent letter signed by over 140 tech leaders denouncing Trump’s candidacy.
This is especially significant as the political world is closing ranks around Trump in light of recent scandals, and Republican policymakers are eyeing a movement for a full-scale protest against their nominee. An unusual show of support, as official company positions, against a candidate might be the tipping point for a movement.
I should note my biases: I’m not a fan of Trump. By releasing this news, I hope it will inspire others to be brave. Neutrality is just not an option at this point, which is one reason why I couldn’t stand being a traditional (objective) reporter during this election.
It’s time to speak up.