At a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC this morning, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel laid out his rationale for supporting Donald Trump, characterising him as the only candidate with the ability to challenge establishment politics. Peter Thiel at the National Press Club in DC this morning.
"It's not a lack of judgement that leads Americans to vote for Trump," Thiel, tie-less in a blazer and blue shirt, told the audience of journalists. "We vote for Trump because we judge the leadership of our country to have failed."
The Palantir co-founder and Facebook board member has recently come under fire for his support of Trump, and many members of Silicon Valley's elite circles have publicly distanced themselves from him. Yet despite this — he remarked that the climate in Silicon Valley is "more polarised than [he] realised" — he doubled down on his support for the candidate.
He frequently described Trump, to whose campaign he recently donated $US1.25 million ($1.6 million), as an outsider. He painted him as the better alternative than Hillary Clinton, whom he criticised as, among other things, a war hawk and an establishment lackey.
"Trump's agenda is about making America a normal country," he explained, seemingly in direct contradiction to his candidate's oft-touted slogan. Thiel suggested that America's problems — a trade deficit, an expensive healthcare system, the involvement in a number of foreign conflicts — were the result of politicians who wanted to keep the status quo in place because it benefited them.
"Voters are tired of being lied to," he said.
In what essentially amounted to a stump speech, Thiel also waved away worries about Trump's temperament and personal conduct.
"Nobody thinks his comments about women were acceptable. They were clearly offensive and inappropriate," he said. "But I don't think the voters pull the levers in order to endorse the candidate's flaws."
When asked during a question and answer session following his speech whether putting the sentient merkin in charge of the country's nuclear codes might be a bad idea, Thiel demurred.
"I think he wouldn't even get us into a situation where we'd be even close with respect to Russia," he said. "If you actually look at the specifics, where might something actually happen, where might something go wrong, I would think that in some ways Hillary is much more dangerous than Trump. I don't think Hillary will get us into nuclear war either, but it's a much more confrontational foreign policy."
Thiel also contrasted the interests of people in Silicon Valley — of which he is certainly one — with the interests of the majority of Americans. He repeatedly referred to the country's "bubbles" and "elites", particularly "coastal bubbles", arguing that they have helped shipwreck the country.
While none of this is particularly surprising rhetoric — Trump himself loves to castigate Clinton who has "experience, but it's bad experience" — it is somewhat jarring to hear about the plight of the working class from a billionaire who said later in the event that Hulk Hogan was a "single-digit millionaire".
Peter Thiel, verbatim: "If you're a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system."
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) October 31, 2016
Notably, Thiel barely touched upon some of the fiercest criticism against Trump — his penchant for cajoling his supporters with angry, bigoted and offensive language, his racist policies — and instead referred to "the lie behind the buzzword of diversity".