CLEVELAND — Like pretty much everything else this week, Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel’s speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday was not glaringly evil but mostly...pretty boring. “When Donald Trump asks us to Make America Great Again, he’s not suggesting a return to the past,” Thiel told the convention. “He’s running to lead us back to that bright future.” So: boring and incoherent.
Thiel rushed stiffly out onto the stage, clearly very happy and comfortable to be surrounded by this many human people. “I build companies and I support people who are building new things, from social networks to rocket ships,” he said, quickly—very quickly—by way of introduction.
“I’m not a politician,” he continued. (Indeed, it is very likely that Thiel is working towards the end of politics as we know it!) “But neither is Donald Trump. He is a builder, and it’s time to rebuild America.” As has been noted many times over many years, Trump is not a builder so much as a brander.
“Across the country, wages are flat,” Thiel said, sounding like a politician. “Americans get paid less today than ten years ago. But healthcare and college tuition cost more every year. Meanwhile Wall Street bankers inflate bubbles in everything from government bonds to Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees.”
Here, he paused for boos.
Thiel went on to thread—or at least attempt to thread—a very interesting needle, invoking the rise of Silicon Valley while also lamenting the decline of that nation’s technological prowess. He waxed nostalgic about a time when “all of America was high tech,” giving plaudits to the federal government for its support of projects like the Apollo program and the creation of the Internet—an odd position for a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian to espouse.
“When I was a kid, the great debate was about how to defeat the Soviet Union. And we won,” he recalled. “Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from our real problems. Who cares?”
“Every American has a unique identity,” he continued. “I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American.”
The aspects of his “unique identity” that he failed to mention are at least as interesting as those he did: The Thiel Foundation, for example, has pledged up to $1,000,000 to the Seasteading Institute, which exists to “to enable seasteading communities—floating cities—which will allow the next generation of pioneers to peacefully test new ideas for government.” In furtherance of this goal, the Institute encourages Americans interested in seasteading to renounce their citizenship, so as to avoid paying taxes on income and capital gains acquired abroad—that is, at sea.
Anyway! Somebody get that man a bottle of water.