Donald Trump supporters were in short supply at this week's Code Conference, an invitation-only gathering of tech and media elites held at a high-end resort just outside Los Angeles.
Such events are lonely places for conservative voices, said one attendee, who compared being a Trump supporter at Code to "being in the closet." He said people who know him well — friends and colleagues — know his views, but he keeps them quiet among this crowd.
The attendee, a venture capital investor based outside the San Francisco Bay Area, asked not to be named for fear that revealing his support for the presumptive GOP nominee would damage the very business relationships he came to cultivate.
We chatted briefly among a small group at a cocktail party — one of the many networking events to mix and mingle — then followed up for a more candid one-on-one discussion the next day.
"Folks in San Francisco — California in general — are pretty open about their views and their dislike for anything that is conservative, and there is really not a discussion to be had around it," he said.
He described people in the tech community as having a "monolithic mindset" and of claiming to be "progressive," while automatically labeling conservatives as "regressive."
"So folks like us would just rather not engage and — if there is a comment made — just let it slide," he said.
It is no secret that this group leans left: Individuals in the internet, electronics and communications sectors have donated more money to support Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton than any other candidate. Monetary support for Trump is at or near the bottom among this group, according to money-in-politics tracking group OpenSecrets.org.
Billionaire investor and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is one of the few big names in tech backing Trump.
The attendee we spoke with described himself as fiscally conservative and in favor of small government, lower taxes, a strong military and international presence, but socially liberal and in favor of free trade and immigration. He said Trump had been his least favorite candidate among the Republican hopefuls, but he is now resigned to casting his ballot for the real estate tycoon.
"I am not lock-stepped politically or policy-aligned with Trump," he said. "There were a lot better candidates who were more respected, more presidential and more qualified, but I think a bad conservative candidate is better than any Democratic candidate."
Over the course of the conference, Trump's opponents were vocal. From the on-stage interviews, to the late night parties — the implications of a Trump presidency were a source of angst.
"I truly believe that if he gets elected both this country and to some extent the world will enter a very dark period," said Yoav Leitersdorf, a partner at YL Ventures. "I am also appalled by how un-presidential The Donald is — I think that statesmanship and proper conduct are prerequisites for the role."
Common concerns included Trump's positions with regard to minorities and immigration, foreign policy, the economy, trade and the erosion of American values. For example, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, criticized Trump for attacking free speech and freedom of the press.
"One thing that I think is not appropriate that Donald Trump is doing is working to freeze or chill the media that are examining him," Bezos said in his on-stage interview, which set the tone for the entire event. "We live in this amazing democracy with amazing freedom of speech and a presidential candidate should embrace that."
A Trump win would raise serious questions, said Sanu Desai, managing director Torch Partners.
"What does it say about the electorate's collective decision-making, and what does it say about what type of job our elected officials have done? And, the subtext — that the American Dream is over — is getting louder and louder, whether you are a Bernie fan or a Trump fan," he said.
On stage, the moderators pressed each speaker for their thoughts on Trump.
"If I thought I could make a difference, I would probably do something," said rocket-builder Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. "I am just glad being the U.S. president is like being captain of large ship with a small rudder, and so, there is just a limit to how much good or bad a president can actually do."
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