Tech billionaire Peter Thiel broke the mold in 2020, when he spoke at the Republican National Convention and supported Donald Trump. His foray into politics got him excommunicated from the LGBTQ community. The Advocate, a prominent LBGTQ publication, declared that while Thiel may have relationships with other men, he is not gay.
It appears Thiel’s desire to influence GOP politics is not over.
Politico reports that Thiel contributed the maximum amount to Harriet Hageman, who is challenging Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). This follows President Trump’s endorsement of Hageman. He has also donated to Joe Kent, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler’s (R-Wash.) primary challenger. Both sitting representatives voted to impeach President Trump after he left office. Apparently, Thiel has met with Trump since the 2020 election, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The reemergence of Thiel as an ally of Trump is a different posture than the co-founder of Pay Pal and Palantir took in 2020. Reports emerged during that summer that Thiel was frustrated with the COVID-19 response and was worried about the impact the economic downturn would have on the election. He reportedly told sources that he would likely still vote for Trump, as he found Biden an unpalatable choice.
Thiel’s support for Trump made him a pariah in Silicon Valley, and in 2018 he relocated his home and Thiel Capital to Los Angeles. Reportedly, he even considered leaving the board of directors of Facebook, where he started serving in 2005 and was an early investor. As of today, he is still on the board. However, it seems many of the issues he raised in his 2016 RNC speech are still on the table.
In the speech, he noted the general economic malaise that existed outside of his industry. Thiel seemed concerned with the situation Americans in flyover country were dealing with, from falling wages to increasing costs for healthcare and college tuition. “Our economy is broken,” he said, noting that he and Trump were both builders and not politicians. However, he also emphasized the incompetence of our government in the 21st century:
And you know this isn’t the dream we looked forward to. Back when my parents came to America looking for that dream, they found it right here in Cleveland. They brought me here as a one-year-old and this is where I became an American. Opportunity was everywhere. My dad studied engineering at Case Western Reserve University, just down the road from where we are now. Because in 1968, the world’s high tech capital wasn’t just one city: all of America was high tech.
It’s hard to remember this, but our government was once high tech, too. When I moved to Cleveland, defense research was laying the foundations for the internet. The Apollo program was just about to put a man on the moon–and it was Neil Armstrong, from right here in Ohio. The future felt limitless.
But today our government is broken. Our nuclear bases still use floppy disks. Our newest fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain. And it would be kind to say the government’s software works poorly, because much of the time it doesn’t even work at all. That is a staggering decline for the country that completed the Manhattan project. We don’t accept such incompetence in Silicon Valley, and we must not accept it from our government.
Yet here we are in 2021 with an administration pushing us to use photovoltaic technology first developed in 1954 to reduce carbon emissions and retrofit a labor-management structure born in the early 20th century on the workforce. Nothing about any of this is progressive. Even the Democrats’ preference for European-style cradle-to-grave social programs is regressive. Sweden has been in the process of rolling back its generous social programs for several years.
The only thing that will cure the American malaise, which is accelerating, is a return to innovation. We should provide new solutions to perennial problems, not repeat the mistakes Europe made 40 years ago. To do this, we need new leaders. The establishment is made up mainly of people over 70 who have been in government for decades. We badly need a shake-up that includes forward-looking, tech-savvy people who have a deep understanding of the real challenges we face and the ability to develop solutions.
Thiel is now backing what Recode called “a network of young, populist, Ivy League-educated proteges and encouraging them to run for Senate all around the country.” He made a $10 million donation to a PAC supporting J.D. Vance in the Ohio Senate race. Blake Masters, who leads Thiel Capital and the Thiel Foundation, is running for Senate in Arizona with Thiel’s backing. He has also donated to Senators Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton in 2022. The tech entrepreneur has spent more on down-ticket races going into 2022 than he did on Trump’s 2016 presidential bid.
Thiel is not a typical Republican donor. However, if money can change the conversation, Thiel may be in it for the long haul. A source who claimed to be familiar with Thiel’s political thinking told Recode, “He has a really strong preference for people who stick their middle finger up to the status quo and conventional wisdom.” That may explain why he supported Donald Trump.
But it doesn’t entirely explain how he would like to influence the Republican agenda. He has donated to Numbers USA in the past and is portrayed as an immigration restrictionist. He set up a program through the Thiel Foundation that pays students to not go to college and to start a company instead. The combined net worth of those businesses is now over $45 billion. He is also a visionary tech entrepreneur who has a distinct position on how archaic our government infrastructure is while being deeply tied to it through Palantir.
Maybe it is time for an intellectual revolution. The middle and working classes have been falling behind for decades. Thiel noted in his 2016 RNC speech that things look very different an hour or two outside our urban centers. And nothing in the Biden agenda is improving the situation in those communities. In reality, inflation, green energy policies, and unfettered immigration will make things worse.