Silicon Valley’s elite want to fix our broken country—by seceding from it.
On Tuesday night, as it became increasingly clear that a Donald Trump presidency was not only possible, but likely, Uber investor and Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pishevar tweeted out a secession plan for California in a state of panic.
Seceding, Pishevar argued, was the most patriotic thing Californians could do. The state could leverage its economic weight and slice of the federal budget to force nationwide changes, like the end of the embattled Electoral College.
“Everyone is in shock that we have a reality TV star that has said incredibly racist and sexist things as our next president,” Pishevar told me. “People say he was legitimately elected, but Hitler was also legitimately elected. This is a very dark and scary time in our country. I don’t buy into this idea that just because he was elected we have to fall in line.”
Pishevar, though, was not alone among Silicon Valley elite in thinking that this was a really good idea. Silicon Valley loves to imagine creating a world where none of the governing forces of reality apply. Remember when venture capitalist Tim Draper proposed dividing California into six separate states? Silicon Valley loves this stuff and Pishevar quickly racked up support from people like Cheezburger founder Ben Huh, Design, Inc. CEO Marc Hemeon and Path founder David Morin.
Another fan of the idea created a Slack channel for the plan—now dubbed “New California”—where fans of a California secession can work out the particulars of exactly how to secede.
Though many of Pishevar’s critics on Twitter deplored the idea of what seemed like Silicon Valley simply abandoning the rest of the country on the heels of a Trump presidency, Pishevar envisions it more like a litmus test for America—a “challenge to the system” to force the rest of the country to get in line with Silicon Valley’s particular image of what America should be like.
To actually secede, a vote by California to leave the union would likely have to be ratified by a majority of the country’s other states. Pishevar hopes it doesn’t come to that. But if it did, he told me, then California should leave. It will be a sign that the nation has failed his test.
“Trump voters might actually approve California becoming its own republic. That’s an interesting interplay that I don’t think could happen at any other time,” he said. “And it should scare everyone.”
The chances of both California and the rest of the country supporting a California secession, he told me, are “very high.”
Pishevar said his idea, at the moment, is “very open-ended” and he’s still seeking advice on how best to proceed. More details on the plan, he said, will be released soon.
But Pishevar didn’t just propose seceding. He’s proposing a withdraw of vital Silicon Valley support at the federal level. Shortly after Trump’s victory was announced, he tendered his resignation as a member of the Fulbright Scholarship board within the federal Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
And Pishevar and his secession supporters weren’t the only Valley elite panicking at the thought of a Trump presidency. After all, it’s hard to tell how Trump will approach technology policy. As a candidate, he’s brushed aside calls for a more balanced approach to encryption, attacked Apple for refusing to help the FBI unlock the cellphone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, called for shutting down the web, and jokingly asked Russia to carry out cyberattacks against the U.S.
But Silicon Valley’s secession attempts miss a crucial point: Clinton may have won the popular vote by a few hundred thousand votes, but regardless, Trump is what a very large slice of America wanted, and crucially, how the Electoral College voted. You can’t just dream up a software update to do away with an entire nation’s systemic problems.
Trump may have a hard time courting the affections of Silicon Valley. But at least he will always have Peter Thiel.
This story was updated to include comments from Shervin Pishevar.