However, the Biden White House has been more hostile to tech companies and their owners. Biden has accused companies like Facebook of “killing people” for not regulating Covid posts more strictly.
He also named a series of senior officials who called for Big Tech to be broken up, such as Tim Wu and Lina Khan, two stars of the antitrust movement.
Biden has also been a strong supporter of unions, bringing him into conflict with Amazon and Tesla. Amazon has fought union organizing efforts at major warehouses across America, while Musk has been a vocal opponent of organized labor.
The Tesla billionaire also complained about Biden’s apparent reluctance to credit his company for driving the electric vehicle revolution, while heaping praise on Ford and General Motors.
In contrast, Trump cut taxes on huge reserves of foreign funds held by Apple, Google and Microsoft, which were returned to grateful shareholders.
But it’s the Democrats’ tax policies that have caused the biggest stir among Silicon Valley’s wealthiest. Last year, US Senators Ron Wyden and Elizabeth Warren proposed taxing the 700 richest Americans on their unrealized gains such as the skyrocketing value of their stocks. The plan was scuppered by moderate Democrats but angered Musk.
“Eventually they run out of other people’s money and then they come looking for you,” he wrote in October. He later sold 10% of his Tesla shares, resulting in a tax bill of around $11 billion.
“I’m paying the highest amount of tax in all of history,” he said.
Zach Graves, executive director of the Lincoln Network, a technology policy group, says, “There has always been a kind of libertarian flair in Silicon Valley, but sometimes it was more underground. They don’t wear it on their sleeve. The convention that Silicon Valley leans quite heavily to the left is correct. But you see notable exceptions.
“People are more successful, maybe they got their way out [a major payday such as an IPO]. They feel more comfortable in their political opinions.
A string of prominent Silicon Valley investors, such as Paul Graham, the Welsh founder of Y Combinator, and Marc Andreessen, the head of one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms, A16Z, are have become more outspoken about left-wing censorship in recent months.
“Before, censorship was something the right did, and free speech was something the left favored. But over the past few decades, the banning of ‘problematic’ ideas has become a major component of left-wing culture,” Graham wrote last month.
Musk vowed to use his $44 billion Twitter takeover to reverse that trend, saying he would promote free speech and allow Trump to return to the service. The White House responded by highlighting Biden’s concerns about “misinformation” on social media.
If the tech elite divorces the left, it could put them further at odds with the Silicon Valley base, which has protested jobs such as military contracts and donates disproportionately to Democratic candidates.
But as the tech industry moves out of California, its politics may also change. Miami’s Republican mayor has embraced the city’s booming cryptocurrency scene, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott has embraced tech companies moving to his state.
As a wave of anti-tech sentiment sweeps through US Democrats, Biden risks losing one of his most powerful voters.