OPINION

Make Cupertino Great Again.

Silicon Valley was patriotic once. I remember—I grew up there.

The American Summer of 2020 had eerie resemblances to that of Paris, 1968: for seven weeks, students throughout the city rioted, overturning cars, erecting barricades, tearing up cobblestones to throw at police, and ultimately bringing the economy of France to a halt. For the English philosopher Roger Scruton, the moment was transformative. It’s when he realized he was a conservative:

I suddenly realized I was on the other side. What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defense of western civilization against these things. That’s when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down.”

This desire to “conserve” is often oversimplified as a caricature of political conservatism, but there’s still a grain of truth to it. Anyone who stood helplessly watching the destruction of historic monuments, our collective history, public property, and people’s livelihoods in the name of “revolution” this past year with a sinking feeling in their stomach gets it. Something is being lost in all this.

This Independence Day, I want to reflect on that loss. But even more than that, I want to honor what needs to be conserved.

Silicon Valley has become a place where patriotism is shunned, and where the residents look with contempt on large portions of the country.

I grew up in Cupertino, California, in the 1990s. It was multiethnic (an amazing Taiwanese food scene), peaceful, innovative, and beautiful. Today, Cupertino may be seen by most as the heart of super-liberal Silicon Valley, but back then, it was firmly rooted in patriotism and American values. My next-door neighbor grew up to be an Air Force veteran who has served for more than a decade of his life. In the park near our house, there’s a statue featuring (Cupertino’s own) Matthew Axelson and James Suh, two Navy SEALs who died fighting in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings (memorialized in the book and film, “Lone Survivor”). Mrs. Axelson, Matthew’s mother, taught 4th grade at my local elementary school.

Sure, there were liberals there, too. But it was a different time. We used to agree on a lot more than we disagreed on, and liberal Cupertino used to have a lot more love for their country than they do now. My childhood was more or less idyllic: a two-parent home, my mom stayed home to raise us, my dad worked, our neighborhood was perfectly safe and secure from crime, and I benefited from a good education.

But we’re not there now. Silicon Valley has become a place where patriotism is shunned, and where the residents look with contempt on large portions of the country.

Here’s the thing: this was far from inevitable.

Apple Park.

Apple Park.

LIBERAL—WHEN IT DOESN’T AFFECT THEM

Santa Clara County, where Cupertino is located, has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 2000. According to the Federal Election Commission, between 2018 and 2021, Cupertino residents donated almost four times as much to Democrats as Republicans.

 

In 2017, a Stanford University study surveyed the policy preferences of nearly 700 wealthy tech leaders, many of whom call Silicon Valley home. In what amounts to the most extensive academic survey of this group to date, researchers found a lot that was predictable: 96% percent surveyed support gay marriage, 82% favor increased gun control, 67% opposed the death penalty, and 79% support liberalizing access to abortions. “Their outlook is cosmopolitan and globalist—they support free trade and more open immigration, and they score low on measures of ‘racial resentment’… On most culture-war issues, they are unrepentantly liberal.” the New York Times describes in their write-up of the study.

When it comes to government regulation of Big Tech, however, New York magazine describes these tech billionaires as “more conservative than the average Republican donor.” “What’s more, researchers found tech elites hated the thought of regulation more even than non-tech millionaires.”

Survey results from “Predispositions and the Political Behavior of American Economic Elites: Evidence from Technology Entrepreneurs,” by David Broockman, Greg F. Ferenstein, and Neil Malhotra.

On the surface, this makes sense—it would be self-defeating to advocate for changes to the regulatory environment that made them billionaires in the first place—but those surveyed also disclosed strong anti-union sentiments and that it was “too difficult to fire workers.”

Conservatives have pointed this out for quite some time now—that Democrats have turned their back on working-class Americans and now represent the interests of their corporate donors. This didn’t happen overnight. In Don’t Blame Us: Suburban Liberals and the Transformation of the Democratic Party (2014), political historian Lily Geismer recounts how since the 1960s, the party has courted favor with suburban knowledge professionals and high-tech corporations who “supplanted urban ethnics and labor unions as the party’s core constituency.” In 1972, George McGovern was the first Democratic presidential candidate to do better with white-collar than blue-collar voters, winning 42% of knowledge professionals around the country.

This relationship also fundamentally altered the Democratic party, who are now utterly beholden to the globalist and anti-competitive wiles of Big Tech.

A new breed of Democrat was born, one that believed in developing better relationships between government and business, especially tech companies. In 1989, the Times described this generation of Democratic politicians as an “Atari Democrat,” “young moderates who saw investment and high technology as the contemporary answer to the New Deal.” Think technophiles like Al Gore. When in office, Gore championed the cause of tech companies, and in 1996 he and former-President Clinton enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law—and the now-infamous Section 230 with it. (Turns out, Gore did invent the Internet).

The tight relationship between the Democratic party and the tech industry paid off—for both. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Big Tech grew, unrestrained, and made it possible to scale up outsourcing practices in all industries while domestic manufacturing—even in tech—was gutted. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley wealth was pumped into Democratic campaigns. In 2016, Silicon Valley donated 60 times more to Clinton than to Trump—Clinton attracted 97% of Big Tech money.

This relationship also fundamentally altered the Democratic party, who are now utterly beholden to the globalist and anti-competitive wiles of Big Tech.

1 Infinite Loop.

1 Infinite Loop.

MAKE TECH HUMBLE AGAIN

All throughout the Trump administration, Democrats and their allies in the media worked hard to connect nationalism to white supremacy. We were told over and over again that exhibiting pride in your country made you a racist. Yesterday—the day before Independence Day—the New York Times published commentary titled, “A Fourth of July Symbol of Unity That May No Longer Unite.”

The left’s war on patriotism has serious and alarming consequences for the world’s future. But it also makes perfect sense if you understand whose interests the left now represents. Facebook and Twitter think of themselves as global corporations, not American ones—when the Facebook Oversight Board issued its ruling on censoring former-President Trump, it did not cite a single federal or state law. Instead, it cited the United Nations. Google, meanwhile, is willing to work closely with the Chinese government to surveil and track dissidents and Uyghurs, but has deep ethical objections to helping the Pentagon.

All these companies are American—staffed by mostly American workers, funded by mostly American investors, and supported by the American government…

Google, of course, was founded in Silicon Valley. Apple’s worldwide headquarters are in Cupertino. My hometown is the birthplace of the semiconductor and computer industry: Oracle, eBay, Yahoo, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, and Tesla were all founded in the area. And yet, despite the fact that all these companies are American—staffed by mostly American workers, funded by mostly American investors, and supported by the American government—they act as though they are not even slightly grateful for the country that they owe so much to.

In an interview for Prospect back in 2014, Scruton noted that “we have collectively inherited good things that we must strive to keep.” July 4th, to me, is about gratitude, more than anything else: being grateful for the country I was lucky enough to be born and raised in. And it’s informed by my conservatism, which is rooted in wanting to preserve the country I was born in.

Cupertino—and the rest of Silicon Valley—used to be grateful too. Perhaps, on July 4th, they should think about what they owe America, rather than what America owes them.

This article is part of a Human Events Opinion Special Collection released July 4th, 2021: “INDEPENDENCE DAY 2021.” You can read the other pieces in the collection here.

Written By:

Co Publisher and executive opinion editor