President Barack Obama still holds a massive lead over Romney in Silicon Valley donations, though he’s also certainly lost some ground with technology sector donors over his 2008 showing. The Reuters article notes that in 2008, Obama– young, tech-savvy, addicted to his Blackberry– was an icon and darling of the tech world. By this time in that last election cycle, he had raised $1.6 million from employees of 15 top tech companies. This cycle, that total has dropped to $1.44 million from the same 15 companies.
Romney still trails far behind Obama in the technology sector, with a comparatively modest haul of $340,000 from the same 15 tech companies. Still, that’s a marked improvement over Sen. John McCain’s $240,000 at this point in 2008. Romney also has some important Silicon Valley figures behind his campaign. Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, who supported Obama in 2008, is supporting Romney this cycle. Tech giant and Republican, Meg Whitman, famous for her stellar performance as CEO of eBay and presently working as CEO of Hewlett-Packard after a failed 2010 bid for Governor of California, is also backing Mitt Romney and is a co-chair of the Romney 2012 campaign.
Meanwhile, Obama– though still clearly Silicon Valley’s darling in the 2012 presidential contest– is getting a cooler reception than he had in 2008. Since then, some in the tech industry have come to view Obama as broadly hostile to business for introducing market uncertainty and increasing costs for businesses with Democratic reforms to the financial and health insurance industries. Before he died, Apple founder Steve Jobs told Obama that he would not win a second term without being more friendly to business. He also reportedly told the president that the jobs Apple had outsourced to Asia would never be coming back to the US.
Is there a place then, for Silicon Valley donors who are cooling to Obama, but clearly reluctant to support Mitt Romney? Put in the perspective of the broader two-party system, is there a place in our political landscape for tech industry types who support what they would call more fiscally conservative, business-friendly, free market public policy like Republicans (claim to), yet are socially more progressive and in line with Democratic rhetoric? Not in the two-party system. Not among Democrats who differ with them on economic issues, nor among Republicans who are heavily animated by social conservative issues.
The answer, then, is for technology sector workers who have this problem of “political homelessness” to declare their independence from the two party system, by either championing their principles as critical voices and mavericks within the major party of their choice and refusing to be dogged by party groupthink; by finding a third party that represents their beliefs and principles best; or by becoming unaffiliated from any political party and voting as an independent. Because of open primary reforms happening across the country, especially in California, where so much of the technology sector resides, these options have never been easier, more practical, and more powerful.