Power Trip

Can the Tech Industry Do What the Dems Can’t?

Democrats are notoriously bad at turning out for midterm elections. Silicon Valley is directing money and muscle to finding solutions outside the party structure.

Alisha Green
Published in
7 min readOct 18, 2018
Art: Mark Weaver

UUnderstanding the roots of the progressive tech wave that’s risen since 2016 requires looking back more than two years, before the election of Donald Trump, to when the Silicon Valley types first started arriving in Washington, D.C., in droves.

After the disastrous launch of Healthcare.gov, the Obama administration hired former Google engineer Mikey Dickerson to modernize government from the inside. Dickerson’s credentials were sound. The only question was how he and his ilk would assimilate to life in Washington, D.C. In other words, whether they’d wear suits and ties.

‘Is this the same old business as usual or are they actually going to listen?’

Dickerson made the concession of wearing button-down shirts instead of T-shirts, he said in a 2014 White House video announcing the formation of the U.S. Digital Service, a sort of proactive “Geek Squad” for the government. He added that for all of his Silicon Valley friends decamping to D.C., suits were not part of the everyday attire.

Broadcasting that detail was an important part of how the engineers Dickerson was trying to recruit would perceive the role. “Because that’s just the quickest shorthand way of asking, ‘Is this the same old business as usual, or are they actually going to listen?’” he said.

The answer to that question, as it turns out, was a little of both. Which is why techies, including Dickerson and a cadre of others like him with experience in D.C., have moved on to overcoming another entrenched challenge: independently developing technology to spur Democrats to vote in non-presidential elections, something the party has been dismal at for years.

The way Silicon Valley types see it, the top-down, party-driven system is overdue for disruption. Backed by some of the tech sector’s most prominent investors and driven largely by the corps of politics-savvy techies who worked for…



Alisha Green
Writer for

Reporter covering tech, politics and how they influence each other.