Perhaps Joel Kotkin is being too optimistic, but at a time when the media is obsessed with the internecine warfare within the Republican Party, he suggests that the Democratic Party might soon be riven by its own internal contradictions. Apparently, its new ruling class of high-tech oligarchs has very little in common with its base constituents.
High tech oligarchs are buying major media properties, but their principles seem to contradict those of the Democratic Party’s political base:
Yet for all the advantages of this burgeoning alliance with tech interests, it threatens to create tensions with the party’s traditional base — minorities, labor unions and the public sector — as the party tries accommodate a constituency that combines social liberalism and environmentalist sentiments with vaguely libertarian instincts. The fact that this industry has a pretty awful record on labor and equity issues is something that could prove inconvenient to Democrats seeking to adopt class warfare as their primary tactic.
Sheryl Sandberg talks a good game about the feminist goal of gender parity but few industries are as male dominated than high tech. It’s nearly all white and Asian males. Very little of the wealth trickles down to minority communities:
Large tech firms are notoriously skittish about revealing their diversity data, but one recent report found the share of Hispanics and African-Americans, already far below their percentage in the population, declined in the last decade; Hispanics, roughly one quarter of the local workforce, held 5.2% of the jobs at 10 of the Valley’s largest companies in 2008, down from 6.8% in 1999, according to theSan Jose Mercury News. The share of women in management also has declined, despite the headlines generated by the rise of high-profile figures like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. The mostly male white and Asian top geeks in Palo Alto or San Francisco should celebrate their IPO windfalls, but wages for the region’s African-Americans and Latinos, roughly a third of the local population, have dropped, down 18% for blacks and 5% for Latinos between 2009 and 2011, according to a 2013 Joint Venture Silicon Valley report. Indeed as the Valley has de-industrialized, losing over 80,000 jobs in manufacturing since 2000, some parts of the Valley, notably San Jose, where manufacturing firms were clustered, look more like a Rust Belt city than an exemplar of tech prosperity.
High tech outsources with wild abandon and would surely not cotton too kindly to a move to unionize their workforces.
In Kotkin’s words:
Another inevitable flashpoint regards unions, a core progressive constituency. Venture capitalist Mark Andreesen recently declared that “there doesn’t seem to be a role” for unions in the modern economy because people are “marketing themselves and their skills.” Amazon has battled unions not only in the United States, but in more union-friendlyEurope as well.
And then there is the greed and the gross inequality.
Indeed, despite its counter-cultural trappings and fashionably progressive leanings, Silicon Valley has turned out to be every bit as cutthroat and greedy as any gaggle of capitalists. Leftist journalists like John Judis may rethink their support for the Valley agenda once they realize that they have become poster children for overweening elite power and outrageous inequality.
While everyone was screaming about the predatory practice of Wall Street no one has shown any concern at all for how much money the high tech giants shield from taxation.
Individuals like Bill Gates have voiced public support for higher taxes on the rich, yet Microsoft, Facebook and Apple have all saved billions by exploiting the tax code to shelter profits offshore. Twitter’s founders creatively exploited various arcane loopholes to avoid paying taxes on some of the proceeds of their IPO that they set aside for heirs.
I think that Kotkin’s analysis is unimpeachable. I like to think that he is right to believe that internal contradictions will eventually undermine the Democratic coalition.
For now, however, progressives have taught their constituents to direct their hatred against Wall Street and the Tea Party. As long as the media stokes this hatred there will be very little left over for the tech oligarchs.
Also, part of being a Democratic tech oligarch is being cool and hip. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is filled with dimwits who manage to make ridiculous public statements that will instantly turn off young voters. Remember Todd Akin on “legitimate rape.” Remember Christine O’Donnell’s witchcraft. Just the other day a Virginia Republican proposed banning oral sex for teenagers. Now, there’s a winning issue: End Blow Jobs Now.
Democrats do not have to anything more than sit back and laugh while Republicans, who think that they are being principled, shoot themselves in the head.
More seriously, as long as the oligarchs own the liberal media, there is no chance that it will turn against them. And, these people have been smart enough to know where they can go to buy protection. They know that the Democratic Party is, for its wealthiest donors, a protection racket. Greasing the wheels of the Democratic Party is part of the cost of doing business. It beats paying taxes.
If the trial lawyers could do it, why can’t the tech oligarchs?