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Does America Need To Be unGoogled?


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Silicon Valley Will Pay the Price for Its Lefty Leanings


"That was stupid, because Google has an immense amount to lose, even if a court ultimately vindicates its corporate culture. The company’s internal systems, featuring an immense array of internal employee communications, will be ripped open to scrutiny. If I were a Google executive, I wouldn’t want to bet that employees haven’t said much worse things in emails and on message boards than those featured in the lawsuit. Things that are plainly, inarguably, expensively illegal.


But I also wouldn’t want even milder utterances to turn up as testimony in a lawsuit. Because every nasty comment and intemperate remark about Republicans or white males or conservative Christians is going to get broadcast to the public when this case goes to trial. And as you may have noticed, those folks are half the country.


Perhaps Google thinks its market position is so strong that it doesn’t have to worry about piddly things like whether its employees spend a great deal of time using internal systems to slander half the company’s American customer base. What are you going to do, use another search engine?


But this is too narrow an analysis. For one thing, there are quite a lot of conservative small-business owners, and small business is the lifeblood of the kinds of ads that Google sells. The company will be hurt if those business owners get serious about taking their advertising elsewhere, especially if conservatives pursue a secondary boycott, targeting companies that advertise with Google.


This is one reason public corporations have historically tried to keep politics out of their business. It is internally divisive, and it paints a giant target on your back for your political enemies. Whatever small gains you may get, from internal bonding among like-minded employees, or external rewards from like-minded politicians, are almost never worth the blowback.


This is a lesson that Silicon Valley hasn’t had to learn yet, because it is so rich, and so new, that these sorts of concerns haven’t really registered. Presumably that’s why Google managers complacently allowed a corporate culture to grow up that at the very least tolerates some degree of progressive militancy at work, and quite possibly encourages more than a little of it. That was incredibly short-sighted. And if Silicon Valley doesn’t realize this, it is about to get belatedly hit by that realization, good and hard."


I posted this article NOT because of the narrow issue of whether Google should or should not have fired James Damore. That's an interesting issue, but there's plenty of evidence that Damore said some really dumb, if not bigoted, stuff.


The larger issue that I am far more sympathetic to is whether somebody - presumably the Democrats - eventually need to come up with a strategy to unGoogle America.


There are two trends that showed up loud and clear in California in 2016.


First, unlike in the days when Reagan's Republicans could count on GE and corporate California as their base, the largest tech companies are mostly part of Clinton culture - whether you call it Bill or Hillary, or both. Add in Rupert Murdoch's claim that Trump is a moron, because he didn't even realize that Silicon Valley basically had Obama in their pocket. One vision of the future Democratic Party I don't particularly like is the vision of liberal corporate feudalism, brought to you courtesy of Google, Apple, and Amazon. It would be a world in which minimum wages and expanded earned income tax credits for poor ignorant slobs takes some of the sting out of permanent and growing meritocratic corporate-driven income inequality.


Second, Hillary Clinton did particularly well in parts of Orange County that didn't vote Democratic since FDR. Two of the Republican representatives whose districts she carried, Darrell Issa and Ed Royce, just announced they aren't even going to bother fighting for their seats in 2018. I'm not sure it's fair to call their districts "conservative" any more. But they are hardly Silicon Valley liberal. And they are places that are chock full of small businesses concerned about things like making payroll.


What the Democratic Party has yet to sort out is how, or whether, it can build a stable majority by keeping both of these sets of interests and cultures in their tent.


On the surface, there's a view that this is about Silicon Valley v. Dona;d Trump's base. Dig deeper, and what's more interesting is the emerging conflict between Silicon Valley and the future base of the Democratic Party, which may not be able to thrive in a world of monotone liberal tech workers. (See College, Electoral about that).


This is where my fears about the Sandernization of the Democratic Party come in. Some of Bernie's worst YouTube sound bites come when he talked to small businesses about meeting payroll - although there obviously are a lot of liberalish Ben and Jerry's business types in Vermont who support him. And it's not clear what the Sanders wing of the Democrats really think of Google or Facebook. Will they pander to Silicon Valley, like Obama did? Or will they propose to raise their taxes, regulate them, or even bust them up?


We don't really have to worry about this debate - yet. For now, it's fine to just let Trump open his mouth and discredit himself by talking about "shithole countries." Clearly, if Silicon Valley were a country, it would be Democratic, and not a "shithole."


But my guess is that the 2020 Democratic primary will be in part a debate about how, and whether, the Democrats plan to try to build a majority on the backs of NoCal Silicon Valley, or SoCal small businesses, or both.


In terms of both tone and policy, I'm hoping Democrats will follow Sanders' lead and try to stake out new turf. Arguably, both his tone and policies cost him the California primary, particularly compared to a corporatist "safe bet" like Hillary Clinton. Like with Obama, Silicon Valley seemed happy to give her their money, in return for getting what they wanted.


I'm not a fan of monotone corporate feudalism, even if these days it does skew left of center. I'm looking forward to seeing what progressives who want to fill Sanders' shoes in 2020 and beyond have to say about how and why we want to unGoogle America.

Edited by stevenkesslar
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