Silicon Valley is coming to terms with a new type of disruption: Donald Trump as the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee.
The bombastic real estate mogul and reality TV star has emerged as the GOP's likely standard bearer in its bid to reclaim the White House, now that his main rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have abandoned the race.
Bay Area tech executives reacted to this new political reality with shock and denial.
"For Silicon Valley Republicans, this is a moment when you've got to stop and say: Holy shit — I don't know anyone who supports or even voted for the guy who just clinched the nomination," said one Bay Area conservative who works in the tech industry.
Some prominent Republicans are mulling the possibility — however remote — of supporting a third-party candidate. Others say they'll vote for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should she emerge as the Democratic Party's nominee. A number are likely to remain on the sidelines, neither openly endorsing a candidate nor donating money to a campaign.
"I will probably sit out this election," said one California Republican operative with ties to the tech industry who contributed to the #NeverTrump effort. "It reminds me of the [Barry] Goldwater candidacy in '64. And unless Trump changes drastically how he runs his campaign, there will be a lot of people who do the same thing."
If campaign contributions offer one measure of popularity, Trump lags virtually every other presidential candidate this election cycle in tech sector contributions. He brought in just $19,000, compared with over $7 million raised for Democratic candidates, according to the nonpartisan political crowdfunding site Crowdpac's analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.
"Donald Trump seems to have built a wall between himself and Silicon Valley," said Crowdpac Political Director Mason Harrison, who worked on Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign. "Trump's rhetoric on immigration, women, encryption and a host of other issues is at odds with many within the Silicon Valley donor community, who will likely continue to open up their wallets for the Democrat they believe is best positioned to beat him in November."
"People here do care about having a core belief and a compass to guide you," said one former senior adviser to Republican presidential campaigns who is now working in Silicon Valley. "[Trump] so completely lacks that, I don't see the people I know who work in tech and live in the Bay Area, who are part of the Silicon Valley conservative elite group — I just don't see it happening."
Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen devoted countless tweets to tearing down Trump's provocative pronouncements, such as his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
The sage of Sand Hill Road returned to Twitter Tuesday night to deliver his verdict on Trump's likely nomination.
Several Silicon Valley Republicans confided, in interviews and private conversations, that they would cast ballots for Clinton, producing what one political strategist described as the "opposite of the Reagan Democrat" — the Clinton Republican.
"I'm hearing rumblings people would quietly vote for Hillary to make sure Trump doesn't get it. Staying home or not voting doesn't necessarily keep him from the White House," said another longtime Republican. "There are also rumblings there could be a group that comes out publicly for Hillary to make a point."
Prominent GOP donors, including Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman, Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers and Oracle Executive Chairman Larry Ellison, won't say whom they'll support come November. They backed other candidates in the 2016 Republican primary.
Hoover Institution fellow Lanhee Chen has been discussing the possibility of a third-party candidate. Possible contenders would fall into three categories: A longtime conservative like former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who's at the end of his or her career; a young, ambitious player looking to win the adoration of conservatives, like Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse; or a candidate like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg or Gen. Colin Powell, who could attract conservatives and progressives in a general election.
Finding the right candidate, and getting that name on the ballot in every state in the country in time for the November election, is unlikely.
"There are some people who are really engaged in an effort to find a viable third-party candidate," said Chen, who advised Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign. "But I think it's one of those things where they're running out of time."
Some within the GOP — including Matthew Del Carlo, the chairman of the California Young Republicans — predict that stunned Silicon Valley conservatives will eventually fall in line, if not in love, with Trump.
"No one who works within 20 miles of the 101 is ever going to tell a dinner party that she/he is planning to vote for Trump … but they will," said one Silicon Valley conservative. "How do I know that? This week Trump beat Ted Cruz among Indiana evangelicals — doubtful that they're telling their congregation that they just voted for a guy who's been married three times, doesn't go to church and has a conflicted position on marriage equality and reproductive rights."
—By Dawn Chmielewski and Arki Hesseldahl, Re/code.net.
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