There was a time when the wealthy were associated with the Republican party. They backed the candidates, they socialized together, GOP politicians catered to the top 1 percent and the like. The same could be said for Big Tech. Big Tech entrepreneurs started to turn away from the Democrats as they became more and more wealthy, and as they started to come under fire for their privacy policies from the Democrats. They looked to the Republicans to “save” them.
But oh how the tables have turned. It is the Democrats who are now benefiting from cozy relations with the wealthy and Silicon Valley.
Here are 10 examples of how the Democratic Party has become the party of the wealthy and Big Tech.
Businessman Gavin Christopher Newsom became the 40th governor of California in January 2019 with a little help from his friends — his wealthy friends. A Democrat, Newsom previously served as the 42nd mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011 and the 49th lieutenant governor of California from 2011 to 2019. He was funded by eight elite San Francisco families.
Newsom became the favorite of San Francisco society’s “first families” nearly 20 years ago and they have helped him all throughout his career, according to Willie Brown, former San Francisco mayor and former state Assembly speaker, in a Los Angeles Times interview.
Newsom’s patrons — including the Gettys, the Pritzkers and the Fishers — made their fortunes in oil, hotels, and fashion.
“They first backed (Newsom) when he was a restaurateur and winery owner running for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1998, and have continued their support through the governor’s race,” The LA Times reported.
When former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced his candidacy for president, he made a remark about the Democrats’ new relationship with the wealthy.
“I don’t think that wealth is the problem,” said the first African American governor of Massachusetts. “I think greed is the problem.”
Patrick, who grew up in poverty on Chicago’s South Side in the Robert Taylor Homes’ housing projects, knows wealth. After his governor stint, Patrick joined Bain Capital, the private-equity firm co-founded by 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Patrick represents the quandary many Democrats seem to find themselves in today. Democrats like to say they are for the common folk. Some, like Patrick, may have even grown up as “common” folk. But now their two worlds are colliding. While espousing they are for the working stiff, Democrats are also attracted to the world of wealth and the power it can bring in politics.
“Laws cannot purge greed from the hearts of men and women any more than they can purge racism. But just as civil-rights laws can address the material effects of discrimination, so, too, can public policy ameliorate the politics of false scarcity that helps turn Americans against one another. But those who would seek to resolve these conflicts must recognize that the rise of Trumpism and income inequality are linked—and Patrick’s opening announcement, and his role as an avatar of the Democratic establishment, suggest neither he nor his benefactors are capable of doing so,” The Atlantic reported.
There is no doubt about it. The Democrats are replacing Republicans as the preferred party of the very wealthy, Vox reported: “In 2012, something unusual happened. The wealthiest 4 percent of voting-age Americans, by a narrow plurality, supported a Democrat for president.” This number has been growing ever since.
Very rich Americans have voted decidedly Republican for decades, with three exceptions: the elections of 1964, 1992, and 2012, Vox reported.
Republicans nominated the far-right conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964. He proved to be a highly unpopular choice. Then in 1992, the “Democrats changed their policies. Bill Clinton was the “standard-bearer for a new pro-business, neoliberal centrism that sought to win over the growing professional classes,” Vox reported. It was also the year H. Ross Perot ran as an unusually successful third-party candidate in 1992 on a platform of balancing the budget, pulling in voters from the Republican party.
In 2012 there was again a dramatic change. The share of the wealthiest 4 percent of voting-age Americans voting for a Democrat “rose from 24 percent in 2008 to 44 percent in 2012,” Vox reported.
In 2016, Trump played to the racist and xenophobic sentiments of poor whites. Some Republican wealthy elites found they had more in common with Clinton Democrats than Trump Republicans. This exodus has continued.
There was a period when social media giant Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg were under heavy scrutiny by the government, particularly from the Democrats. But then, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) reportedly told Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, to “back off of investigating Facebook and its role in enabling Russia’s misinformation campaign in the U.S.,” The Hill reported.
Schumer was worried that Facebook may “bow to pressure from the right wing, who opposed Facebook’s purging of fake accounts and bots,” according to a source familiar with the meeting between Schumer and Warner.
As much as the Democrats like to appeal to lower- and middle-class voters, many of them are far from it. And they are making money from some of the very corporations they rally against.
Take Hillary Clinton. She has racked in megabucks from her speeches and when her private speeches were leaked, they revealed her repeated praise for the wealthy and corporate America’s elites. Clinton was paid upwards of $225,000 per speech and earned more than $22 million on the paid speaking circuit after resigning as secretary of state, The Intercept reported.
Excerpts of her remarks during paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, and other groups were leaked online by WikiLeaks.
In one Goldman Sachs-sponsored speech, Clinton discussed middle-class economic anxieties by saying she is now “kind of far removed because the life I’ve lived and the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy, but I haven’t forgotten it.”
In another speech, this one at Morgan Stanley on April 18, 2013, Clinton raved about the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan — which would reduce corporate tax rates while raising the Social Security age.
On one side of his mouth, Joe Biden has criticized the largest tech companies, but on the other side, his campaign and transition teams have invited friends of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple to staff and policy groups, The New York Times reported.
In the past, Biden has been critical of Big Tech, including calling out Facebook for mishandling misinformation.
But one of Biden’s closest aides joined the campaign from Apple and other staffers held senior roles at firms that consulted for major tech companies.
“And a nearly 700-person volunteer group advising the campaign, the Innovation Policy Committee, includes at least eight people who work for Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple,” The Times reported.
Where did former Obama staffers go? To Silicon Valley, of course.
During his two terms, Obama, who has been called the “Big Tech president,” supported immigration reforms favored by tech firms such as Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft and criticized by labor unions. He pushed for patent reforms that Google and Apple have praised, The Washington Post reported. Obama drew huge donations from Silicon Valley for the Democratic Party.
Obama often turned to Silicon Valley talent for top posts. Former deputy chief technology officer Nicole Wong was an executive at both Google and Twitter. The next chief technology officer, Megan Smith, came from Google. The director of the patent and trademark office, Michelle K. Lee, was an intellectual property attorney for Google.
So it’s no wonder that when he left office, many of Obama’ss staff headed to Silicon Valley.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, who later cashed in on the Obama Presidency in Silicon Valley, told The Post, “One of the reasons so many former administration officials have ended up in Silicon Valley is you find a lot of the same ‘yes we can’ mentality out there, so it’s a comfort level with it.”
Facebook hired several former Obama White House officials. Airbnb hired three former White House press office staffers. Mobile payment company Square hired then-acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios J. Marantis in 2013 to head its international government, regulatory and policy shop, while two of its communications managers, Colleen Murray and Semonti Stephens, worked at the Treasury Department and the first lady’s office, respectively, The Post reported.
During her campaign, Elizabeth Warren prohibited special access for big donors, but behind the scenes, her campaign treasurer and another close ally organized wealthy supporters, Politico reported.
Boston businessman Paul Egerman and activist Shanti Fry courted big donors in the Northeast by organizing trips and hosting events.
The Massachusetts senator’s campaign was funded primarily by small-dollar online donors and she spoke out against the “corrosive’ influence of political donors and Wall Street billionaires. But it has been speculated that the wealthy supporters Egerman and Fry organized would have played a major role in her presidency if elected, and in the Democratic party.
Back when she was a 34-year-old prosecutor a year-and-a-half into her job in the San Francisco district attorney’s office, Kamala Harris became a favorite of San Francisco’s wealthiest families. She wined, dined, and socialized with them and they backed her career.
“Harris, now 54, often has talked about the importance of having ‘a seat at the table,’ of being an insider instead of an outsider,” Politico reported.
In mid-2002, Harris called Democratic Party mega-donor Mark Buell to tell him she wanted to run for district attorney. Buell told Politico he had considered Harris “a socialite with a law degree.” But after hearing her pitch he offered to be her finance chair. He helped her put together a finance committee that “primarily was young socialite ladies” that raised a ton of money for Harris’ bid. She has remained close to the San Francisco elite, who will most likely help her and Biden get to the White House.
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The Democrats seem to be finding it impossible to reclaim their historical identity as a working-class party and there’s a reason why.
“White voters with college degrees … have moved toward the Democrats. They used to be a reliably Republican group. In the 2018 House elections, they voted for Democratic candidates, 53 percent to 45 percent,” Bloomberg reported.
Democrats are losing support from the white working class while attracting the upper-middle-class suburbanites.