One of the most prominent tech industry trade groups has abruptly switched its position on US President-elect Donald Trump and is now supporting the incoming administration, declaring that it’s “optimistic” about the future.
CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro (Image: AP)
As Buzzfeed’s Joseph Bernstein points out, the Consumer Technology Association — the 92-year-old organisation that represents over 2000 corporations and puts on the splashy Consumer Electronics Show each year — and its president, Gary Shapiro, were relatively down on Trump before the US election. But immediately after the Republican candidate defeated Hillary Clinton, the tune changed.
Bernstein cites several pieces written by Shapiro, as well as press releases put out by the CTA. A Medium post published by Shapiro in July envisioned a Hillary Clinton-Mitt Romney ticket; a press release by the organisation from June asserted that the Clinton “puts [her] technology and innovation agenda front and center”; another blog post by Shapiro declared that Trump was “wrong on trade”; and in an op-ed published in late October, Shapiro wrote that “the fact that Trump is so willing to publicly attack technology leaders and companies without considering the facts is disturbing.”
Yet promptly after the election results came in, the CTA sent out a press release congratulating Trump. A week later, the organisation argued that the incoming administration has a “unique opportunity to advance [the internet of things]”. Shapiro himself completely reversed his position — he called Trump “unqualified” in a March Reddit question-and-answer session, only to describe how the President-elect could “heal a divided America now” in a November 9 op-ed for Fortune.
Shapiro is the president and CEO of the CTA, but he’s also an individual entitled to his own opinions separate from those of the CTA. (He initially supported Marco Rubio.) But as the public face of an organisation, it’s difficult not to intertwine the two; indeed, in statements given to Buzzfeed, Shapiro used the term “we” to describe the change in position.
“We are in the innovation world,” he said. “We adapt to change. That’s what we do. We’re tech ninjas. That means things change and you adapt.”
Of course, it shouldn’t be shocking that the CTA would find itself drawn to a Republican president. After all, it serves as a lobbying group for the tech industry, and is decidedly pro-business; its political action committee has also donated to several Republican presidential candidates in the past. It’s far more than just the group behind CES; it also helps “[shape] the industry at large”. In deciding how to approach the Trump administration, the CTA likely sees an opportunity to help guide America’s tech policy going forward — as well as reward and prop up its member corporations.
Still, the reversal is as spineless as it is slick, and it’s made worse by the speed with which it happened. As many have argued — correctly — since the US election, Donald Trump’s policies pose a threat to millions of people, as well as to the underpinnings of America’s political mechanisms. Shapiro and the CTA can cry cooperation as much as they’d like, but at the end of the day, going along with an administration like Trump’s will have consequences.