There is a quiet agreement among those in the Republican party connected to the tech community that a party shift on social issues, such as same-sex marriage, could boost efforts to recruit top engineering talent.
Post-election revelations of the Obama campaign’s technological prowess, contrasted with the Romney campaign’s Election Day Project ORCA debacle, only served to deepen feelings of technological inferiority in the GOP.
Despite Republicans having historically excelled through use of direct mail and television advertisements, the technology has changed, bringing Silicon Valley in contact with Washington more often.
“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the tech industry is centered in Silicon Valley, and we certainly know the political thought in that part of the country is very much libertarian,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, co-founder and executive director of GOProud, a U.S. political action group that represents gay libertarians.
While Republicans hoped to win by concentrating on broader themes 0f economic freedom and the plight of small businesses, Democrats gained traction by promoting microeconomic issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration — issues that resonate with the largely libertarian leanings of the younger generation that hails from Silicon Valley.
The presidential candidate to receive the second highest financial support from Google through employee contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, was Republican Rep. Ron Paul.
The small-government positions espoused by the right would seem attractive to the entrepreneurial spirit that pervades the tech industry. Efforts to recruit the best and the brightest in technology are being repelled by the GOP’s strict adherence to its traditional social stances — a view which was exacerbated by statements on abortion by former Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
“A lot of these people are fairly economically conservative,” said Patrick Ruffini, president of Engage, a DC-based digital agency.
“I think it’s more than just outreach, I think it has to deal with substantive political issues,” Ruffini said.
“I’m not saying that we should switch our position because just because of that,” he said, speaking to the tech industry’s stance on social issues, “but I think that plays a role in why it’s pretty lopsided.”
Obama’s so-called “evolution” on the issue of same-sex marriage (an area where he has shifted positions over the course of his political career), while much derided by the right, helped solidify his support from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
For example, numerous students that crowded the White House after Obama’s victory was announced waved LBGT rainbow flags, ecstatic over what they viewed as a moral victory on a modern civil rights issue.
“The other thing is that I think that since the beginning of time, human beings have sought out younger generations to figure out the tech stuff,” LaSaliva said.