A VALLEY DIVIDED
Good morning, Term Sheet readers.
**As a reminder, Term Sheet won’t be in your inbox this Monday for the President’s Day holiday. I’ll still be around, so feel free to tweet at me over the weekend. Have a great weekend, and see you next week! **
I was surprised to receive so many responses yesterday about Peter Thiel’s move out of San Francisco. I asked whether it was an overreaction or a rational response to a bigger trend around political polarization in tech. The responses were thought-provoking but many lacked solutions to the “balance problem” in the Valley.
The reason Thiel’s move is notable is that his once-celebrated contrarian view is catching flack to the point where he has decided to change where he does business. (Los Angeles is not necessarily any more conservative-leaning than SF, but alas).
Here are Term Sheet readers’ responses to my question (yes — I only received one saying that Thiel’s move is an overreaction):
Andrew: “Not only has tech become so polarizing that it’s driven conservatives like Thiel away, but I think it’s become so politicized that it’s driven many people away who are moderate on the political spectrum, or simply employees who are the type that don’t like to conflate real-world politics with workplace politics (which are already hard enough at a growing tech company!).
While I don’t agree with Thiel’s politics, I do agree with his notion that everyone being on one side politically is a dangerous thing. If we cut to the core of what we’re doing in the tech world every day, it’s highly ineffective for everyone to be on the same side of anything as we evolve and innovate. As Thiel has preached in books like Zero to One … he’s the ultimate contrarian and that’s how big movements, both political and technological, happen in the beginning. Many liberals would agree with that, and should therefore partially appreciate what he’s doing.”
Colin: “I unequivocally feel that those who have political leanings that are sympathetic toward the right (or even ambivalent) are afraid to self identify or engage in discourse for fear of being ostracized or condemned.”
Greg: “Peter Thiel is a clown and overreacting. While the dynamic he describes is true, it is a characteristic of broader technology entrepreneurship, and is not isolated to Silicon Valley. Does he plan to stop investing in technology startups? Does he plan to stop interacting with technology entrepreneurs and others in that ecosystem? If the answer is ‘no,’ he will still be dealing with the same types of individuals, with the same liberal views, having the exact same conversations.
He’ll just be doing it from an HQ 400 miles south. Nothing will change. Also, real bold move moving from SF to LA (read: sarcasm) – LA is still 51% Dems vs. 22% Republicans. Way to take a stand and move from the most liberal city in America to another liberal bastion in the same damn state. What does he expect will change?
Also, what’s he doing to correct the problem? He has the influence and capital to make a real change – instead of doing that, he’s running away from the problem.”
Ben: “I’ve lived in SF for 4 years now and IMO the answer is ‘yes.’ Not only do I think it’s driving away conservatives, I think it’s even isolating to liberals who aren’t *liberal enough.* It’s something I personally find concerning since anyone who expresses opinions that are remotely moderate (rather than left-leaning) is taking risk of social isolation. In smaller circles, it’s safer. But in larger settings, especially the work environment, it’s increasingly rare to hear any moderate or right-leaning views.”
Josh: “Thiel’s perspective is correct re: polarization. His action of ‘vacating the premises’ is unfortunate because it is supportive and exacerbating to the continuation of imbalance. Balance is important.”
Benjamin: “I agree with Thiel. I’m sure he has felt a lot of direct pressure but when it’s acceptable for a VC fund to change their landing page to say ‘Fuck Trump,’ I think we can begin to consider the fact that we’ve become too closed minded to other opinions.”
Thiel’s concerns are echoed by other conservatives in tech who say they feel alienated by the industry’s embrace of liberal values. The opinions are many while the proposed solutions are few. The evolution of ideological diversity is worth following as the partisan divide continues to widen in the tech world, the media world, and many others. Meanwhile, people like me — born abroad, raised in the South, and living in New York — are not moving elsewhere & welcome the opportunity to debate any of the issues listed above.
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