The battle between the Valley and the socialist-oriented progressives is just beginning, both in California and around the country. The traditional Democratic elite has been recruited to argue the tech leaders’ case. Former senator Barbara Boxer works for Lyft, and Tony West, brother-in-law of presidential contender Kamala Harris, is counsel for Uber. They’re helping direct a wave of tech dollars into Sacramento and Washington to reverse the tide, including a proposed $90 million ballot measure to undermine AB5.
How long will Silicon Valley’s leaders accept these conditions? Both Lyft and Uber have shifted some of their operations out of state, Lyft to Nashville and Uber to north Dallas. Apple has opened a huge new operation in the suburbs outside Austin. But there may be no escape if the ascendant Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders ends up in the White House, particularly with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. In these circumstances, Big Tech is likely to be treated in Washington with the kind of scorn that Amazon faced in New York City from local congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now increasingly the national voice of the party grassroots. If Warren wins, tech companies and their high-wage upper-tier workers will have to deal with demands to put workers on their boards and pay huge taxes to fund expanded Social Security and Medicare programs. Privacy legislation could impede their highly profitable tracking and data-collection businesses, and antitrust enforcement could see the breakup of companies like Google and Facebook. At least one progressive, Oregon senator Ron Wyden, has even suggested that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg face “the possibility of a prison term.”
The tech elite has financed a Democratic Party that now appears to favor socialism over capitalism. A socialist movement is even percolating among Silicon Valley tech employees, many of whom see little opportunity to amass enough wealth to buy a house in the exorbitant Bay Area. Like those French aristocrats who backed revolutionary ideas in the late-eighteenth century only to find themselves riding tumbrels through angry crowds, tech elites have spent a fortune promoting a “woke” politics that is turning against them. They may not lose their heads, but they could find their riches fleeced by former allies. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving, self-involved, and cognitively gifted group of . . . well, idiots.