Carly Fiorina stepped up her attack on Barbara Boxer by scolding her for backing a regulatory expansion into the Internet instead of fixing the broken systems that already exist — and that hurt the tech sector. Fiorina came out explicitly against Net Neutrality and the effort by the Obama administration to impose it by bureaucratic fiat. Politico thinks that the Silicon Valley vote is already sewn up, but Fiorina has already put Boxer on the defensive over the guest-visa system that Congress has supposed to address for years, and that may be enough to open a few more minds:
Ultimately, the Net neutrality issue is unlikely to energize voters in a race pivoting primarily on economic issues, and Fiorina’s comments most likely won’t shake the ground in Silicon Valley, especially given her more than 20 years of experience at AT&T and Lucent Technologies.
Many of the Golden State’s top tech companies have also long made up their minds, said Ralph Hellmann, senior vice president of the Information Technology Industry Council. He added many of those firms “are already close to Boxer.”
But a Fiorina win could make it more difficult for Net neutrality advocates to get anything through the Senate next year, especially if the FCC finds itself mired in legal battles should it reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service. …
Fiorina further emphasized the need for reform to guest visa laws, which she said would allow talent from abroad to stimulate innovation in California, and she proffered the importance of free trade agreements to economic development. She hammered Boxer for prioritizing neither issue, although the Boxer camp says that that the senator strongly supports increasing guest worker visas and incentivizing successful foreign students to work at high-tech companies in the United States.
“I would sum it up as her economic policy is higher taxes, more regulation and bigger government, and she has not been a friend to the technology industry or any other industry,” Fiorina said.
Will Fiorina’s stance change minds in Silicon Valley? It still could. Although Tony Romm at Politico rightly notes that some firms there have backed Boxer, that’s more or less legacy support of a long-term incumbent. Before last year, some people deluded themselves into thinking NN wouldn’t be a government takeover of the Internet, but some market-pressure effort to bully providers into agreeing to self-regulation. Julius Genachowski has removed all doubt as to the true intent of Net Neutrality efforts, and some of those Silicon Valley firms may be rethinking their support of Boxer as a result.
I doubt that Fiorina’s announcement aims as much at tech firms as it does at the general electorate. Boxer’s support of this ham-handed government intervention to solve a problem that doesn’t exist fits a larger narrative of Washington DC careening out of control. Democrats have taken over health care and now want to control the Internet as well. With the economy sinking and deficits exploding, do we need more regulatory expansion, especially in the one area where the economy has worked well through the Great Recession?
If Boxer takes the bait, Fiorina will have her engaged in exactly the discussion Republicans want across the nation — where Democrats defend big, expansionist, nanny-state government, and Republicans remind voters that the costs for that are killing the US economy. At least in theory, the GOP will win big on that argument in these midterms. That’s a stronger theory than Net Neutrality, too.