Last week more than 140 leaders from around the technology industry signed a strongly worded op-ed that rejected Donald Trump’s corrosive brand of political theatre. I was proud to be among them, despite the threats, browbeating, and taunts that inevitably followed (read the comments on the post, should you want to visit the seamier side of political discourse).
Like many in the industry, I tend to keep to myself when it comes to politics. Most of us just want to focus on making great companies, products and services, and leave the politics to the politicians. But lately I’ve found myself deeply dismayed by the tone of Trump’s campaign: the inflammatory name calling, the dismissive bullying, the complete disregard for truth. Even more sinister is what Trump represents: A resurgence of ugly American exceptionalism which panders to our country’s fears, and refuses to consider the deeper causes of our problems.
Three political veterans ponder the future of the Republican Party
One of the most fascinating portions of the 2018 NewCo Shift program was its focus on US politics. In this conversation, veteran political journalist John Heilemann spars with two of the most seasoned veterans of presidential campaigns — Republican strategist Mike Murphy and Democratic strategist Jennifer Palmieri. The topic: The future of the Republican party in an age of Trump.
John Heilemann: We have a panel that was going to be a conversation about the future of the Republican Party with Mike Murphy, master strategist and political guru. Yesterday, she couldn’t make it, but now she’s here.
If we’re lucky, the Golden State’s political present presages a future that will come to all of America in the next 15 years.
California adapted early to the challenges of the 21st century, by pioneering new and innovating ways forward in both politics and business. But before California became a progressive standard bearer, it had to endure an ugly political civil war. That’s the argument presented by Peter Leyden, founder & CEO of Reinvent. In his latest installment of “California Is the Future,” Leyden and partner Ruy Teixeira write that California’s demographics, technology adoption, and adaptation to immigration, globalization and climate change are harbingers of how the rest of the country will soon respond.
Leyden’s argument is that California’s political shift, a transition from backward looking conservatism to progressive liberalism that began about 15 years ago, is just getting started in America at large. Consequently, California’s current political stride will hit the rest of America over the next 15 years. This series is a data-driven exploration that seeks to prove that not only is President Trump the last gasp of the conservative era, but also seeks to demonstrate a new clear alternative to Trump and the Republicans — one that is thriving in California and ready for its national close up.
Tech’s big day on Capitol Hill, Trump’s clan under pressure
Even the billionaires are worried about their own intemperate wealth — well, at least the ones who aren’t such massive douchebags that they’re buying gold Ferraris (really, who does that?). I wrote about the new Gilded Age last month, this piece nails the issue. Money quote (literally): “Billionaires’ fortunes increased by 17% on average last year due to the strong performance of their companies and investments, particularly in technology and commodities. The billionaires’ average return was double that achieved by the world’s stock markets and far more than the average interest rates of just 0.35% offered by UK instant-access high street bank accounts.”
This isn’t going to help any of the companies’ case as they present arguments for why they should be allowed to “self regulate.” The approach our most beloved Internet giants have taken to this most fundamental issue of our Democracy — the ability to have a rationale public discourse — has been to ignore, then reluctantly admit, then drag feet, then finally acknowledge. It’s led to a loss of trust and it’s utterly unfortunate, and avoidable. Money quote: “(Facebook) previously reported that an estimated 10 million users had seen ads bought by Russian-controlled accounts and pages. But Facebook has been silent regarding the spread of free content despite independent researchers suggesting that it was seen by far more users than the ads were.”
“Tech Week” for the Trump administration begins today — although if the effort to set a policy agenda is as ineffectual as the recent “Infrastructure Week,” this might be the last thing you hear about it. Tech CEOs — many of the same faces who trooped to Trump Tower last December, including Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Alphabet/Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt, and a host of others (but no one, apparently, from Facebook) — are gathering at the White House under the auspices of Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s American Technology Council (Tony Romm in Recode).
This week, Kushner is slated to bring peace to the Middle East while he also interviews a bevy of lawyers to protect him from the widening net of the Russian election-interference investigation. So he might be a little busy. But the Tech Week agenda is packed too, with issues like modernizing gov tech, cyber-security, and high-skilled immigration. Cook and others will reportedly also raise the topics of privacy and human rights (Axios). We’ll see how far that gets.
NewCo Shift Forum Dialogs, in Partnership with Work Market
Political veteran John Heilemann frames the consequences of an unexpected election
For more than 20 years, journalist John Heilemann has covered America’s presidential elections. He was the very first online journalist accredited by a presidential campaign (in 1996, by Bill Clinton’s White House, as a correspondent for Wired and Hotwired), and went on, with his colleague Mark Halperin, to write two New York Times No 1. best selling books on the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections (Game Change and Double Down). In the past two years, Heilemann has established himself as a quick-witted host on Showtime’s acclaimed documentary series The Circus, as well as Bloomberg’s With All Due Respect.
A Republican Economist and a Democratic Advisor Debate a Murky Presidential Agenda
At the recent NewCo Shift Forum, Obama advisor Robert Wolf, the co-founder & Chairman of Measure and CEO of 32 Advisors, debated Republican economist Michael Boskin, T.M. Friedman Professor of Economics at Stanford University. At issue was the nascent and often contradictory economic policies of the Trump administration. While the conversation, moderated by political journalist John Heilemann, remained cordial, it didn’t lack for discord. Below is the full discussion on video, and a transcript, edited for clarity.
John Heilemann (JH): Both of you wear a couple of different hats, and have historically. Mike Boskin is the T. M. Friedman Professor of Economics at Stanford, which gives him academic cred that’s really important in terms of thinking about the Trump economy. He also was the head of the Council of Economic Advisers under George Herbert Walker Bush, a very different kind of Republican than the Republican we have now in the White House.
“In the year 2018, nations have bankrupted and disappeared, replaced by corporations.”
That’s the premise of the 1975 sci-fi film Rollerball, which follows one star employee’s awakening and rebellion against the regime embodied by a cynical leader of the global Energy Corp. Rollerball is about as 70s a dystopia as you will find, with James Caan roller-skating through a Howard Cosell remix of The Parallax View. But as the real 2018 comes into view, the movie proves weirdly prescient, as the United States morphs into a corporate state literally governed by CEOs.
Since Donald Trump’s upset victory in November, there’s been a steady stream of stories crediting at least some of his win to an obscure data-analysis company called Cambridge Analytica. The company promised to use “psychographics” to target individual voters with digital ads. Its know-how, according to someaccounts, helped surface a wave of Trump voters that conventional polls failed to measure.
Trouble is, Cambridge Analytica didn’t actually employ any of its psychographic profiling techniques on Trump’s behalf, and its actual role in the presidential campaign was modest at best (The New York Times). Somecoverage has been skeptical from the start.
Nordstrom says it dropped Ivanka Trump’s product line because the clothing and shoes weren’t selling. President Trump complained on Twitter that the retailer treated his daughter “so unfairly.” Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway went on TV to, in her words, give Ivanka “a free commercial” and tell Americans to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” (Here’s The Washington Post’s rundown on the whole donnybrook.)
As Josh Marshall points out in Talking Points Memo, we are way beyond the concept of “conflict of interest” here: “President Trump sees the United States and his family businesses as a fully integrated entity … he is the state. He is the business. …Trump is openly using the presidency as the world’s greatest marketing opportunity.”