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[flagged] Ask HN: Can you be openly politically right-leaning in tech in North America?
43 points by shamoo 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments
I do not have any direct experience with this but would like to get a feel for the degree to which the anti-conservative narrative is true from people with first or second hand experience? Where is this heading?

Note: This is not an implication for or against my political beliefs.

I lean right (fiscally) and sometimes my comments are perceived as unwelcome in group chats. Such topics include afghanistan, covid statistics, are seemingly discouraged. Comments talking about how terrible, racist, and sexist the company is are totally cool. In fact creating a woman's right's channel where the whole purpose is to bash our own employer is also cool. @hereing #general with stories about sexism and how it is rampant in society and white males are no problem. But not afghanistan. Not ok. I imagine most people must hate the obnoxious BS but nobody wants to shout back in 2021.

What does that mean lean right fiscally? Traditionally, I believe that means less government spending, but at least in the US, government spending doesn't seem to change significantly under conservative control. In fact, the spending just shifts from people-in-need to people-that-already-have (social programs vs corporate handouts).

Not talking about Afghanistan at work seems reasonable.

I'm not sure what COVID statistics would mean much; the science behind COVID is pretty settled and there's a solid, highly-regarded (including internationally, at least until Trump) government agency that oversees that in the US (CDC); I don't see where discussing those numbers would even be valuable unless the company were flaunting COVID and the workers wanted action. I suppose when you say COVID stats, you might be referring to total nonsense stats, in which case I would agree those should be excluded from company chat.

> What does that mean lean right fiscally? Traditionally, I believe that means less government spending, but at least in the US, government spending doesn't seem to change significantly under conservative control.

That's just American politics: you never get what you asked for. I remember Dan Carlin saying something like "No matter who you vote for, you always get John McCain."

Could you define the set of beliefs that comprise "right-leaning"? That should help here.

pro-life, pro-gun, pro-free speech, lower taxes, tough solutions to vagrancy.

Incredible that “pro free speech” is now a “right” belief. Free speech is perhaps the cornerstone of classical liberalism.

> Incredible that “pro free speech” is now a “right” belief.

Incredible in the sense that it’s not true, yeah.

Unfortunately, right leaning in the US has come to include views that run counter to science, diversity/inclusivity, and human rights for all (right to vote, right to choose). Are these views welcome in tech companies? Not generally.

> Unfortunately, right leaning in the US has come to include views that run counter to science, diversity/inclusivity, and human rights for all (right to vote, right to choose). Are these views welcome in tech companies? Not generally.

That kind of phrasing is pretty obnoxious. You might as well as "unfortunately, [to be] right leaning in the US means hating puppies and disliking fun." It's needlessly provoking and lumps people into a lazy stereotype.

not to paint a sad story but i’ve never had anyone who preached inclusivity ever try and include me in on something, so i’ve always wondered what that word is supposed to mean.

i generally believe that there’s a huge amount of gaslighting going on in the media. misinformation can influence the media to attack a certain group over another as well.

this doesn’t have to be overt. there are other forms of hate and prejudice going on indirectly and not just from a right leaning source as well. some don’t even understand the damage they are causing by trying to “fix” the situation. in a lot of ways it’s making the system worse for everyone.

there’s a saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

anyways, full disclosure, i’ve lived in many states where you could vote outside of your registered political party. so i have voted outside of my party if i felt the candidate was a good fit for the job. i think we really ought to consider policy awareness programs, like way before an election.

so we aren’t just bombarded with political affiliated party bias propaganda. how much has the political adverts inspired extremism? then later back paddled after an election is over?

or worse, political gaslighting seems to be the norm these days, it’s a very deceptive practice, and is straight up toxic

It takes a very selective reading of the facts to claim conservatives are any more anti science than liberals, in the US. Whatever hot button issue there is, there will be people who deny whatever the scientific consensus is if it doesn't suit their beliefs. The question is, who would you rather have running things? The guy that thought humans were riding dinosaurs 5000 years ago, or the guy who thinks paying 40 million people not to work is going to boost the economy?

The diversity/inclusivity stuff has gone totally bonkers. It's racist now to want to not judge people by their skin color and instead use merit. I don't see how liberals can abide this.. some don't but most are just scared of being yelled at by a twitter mob.

And human rights--with respect to voting one side wants more verification of eligibility and one side does not, no one holds the view that some people shouldnt be allowed to vote. And conservatives think abortion is a human rights issue too, just for the baby (or fetus or clump of cells or whatever you want to call it). We can play word games all we want about it but there is a real moral question here about what constitutes a human.

The voting rights point is interesting. My understanding is that one side wants more verification of eligibility, but the other side is worried that if the approach to verification is too onerous that voter turnout will decrease.

There's seemingly a parallel to the gun control discussion, where again one side wants more verification of eligibility, but the other side is worried that the verification--if applied over-zealously--will be too restrictive.

The two sides are swapped on the two issues, but each time they disagree not necessarily because their fundamental opinions are different, but because they do not trust the other side to be reasonable.

Neither side is really arguing in good faith - they both just want more votes for their party.

I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with voter ID laws. Many democracies in Europe have them. In America they might be unnecessary overkill, but if they increase faith in the electoral process, that's awesome.

The actual issue is that we don't have federal ID cards, and there are a ton of citizens without any form of government-issued photo ID at all. If you're very poor, the idea of paying for a driver's license might seem ridiculous because you have neither a car nor a bank account.

Any good-faith proposal to enforce voter IDs would have to pair it with making IDs simple and free to get for every registered voter, otherwise it can be justly criticized as antidemocratic.

As far as I know state IDs are free. Well at least here they are anyway. They aren't drivers licenses though, you definitely can't drive with one. You did have to go wait at the DMV, that was before Covid. I would hope they would've modernized the process now.

Is "verification of eligibility" really what the gun-control people want? Aren't they trying to argue that even people who can 100% prove that their record is squeaky-clean still shouldn't be allowed to own guns?

Well it’s because historically in the US, voting laws have been used to make sure the “wrong sorts” of people didn’t get a chance to vote.

Any of your four opinions is enough to get you fired if espoused publicly at any FAANG today.

> The guy that thought humans were riding dinosaurs 5000 years ago, or the guy who thinks paying 40 million people not to work is going to boost the economy?

I'll say that the number of people who truly believe that first opinion is vanishingly small and I'm not awfully worried about it impacting their current policy making.

Your opinion on abortion is spot-on.

Left-leaning also "includes" such views - consider tankies, for example. The more meaningful question is what views are genuinely representative.

Had to look up “tankie”. Shows how incoherent the “right” vs “left” can be in terms of positions they take.

Those views aren't welcome in most companies, period. Hence the op's rather important question "what views". Just because the hateful and anti-science groups have found a home in the modern day GOP doesn't mean that a given conservative shares them, even when holding their nose to vote.

I don't think it is even possible for a rational person to be anti-science. By definition you are engaged with a scientific proposition or prediction by focusing on it and disagreeing with the veracity of claims.

When people say so and so are anti-science they appear desperately wishing to smear another as ignorant or irrational and themselves as smart and rational. But a pro-scientific accusation would involve the exact irrefutable point the other is being irrational on. They don't do accurate accusations well because that would be to suppose poor use of rational faculty when all that can be proven is none was detected by the accuser, which might too readily expose their flawed non-scientific approach to accusations. I posit that these smears are based on dogma and only a symptom of one's unwillingness to engage in tense moral debate with cordiality.

I think this is pretty much on the mark. The modern Republican Party has managed to carve itself a niche as a pretty hate-fueled / senseless place.

The issue is that “holding your nose to vote” is taking a stance: somebody who votes for a candidate who is sexist because they like their fiscal policy is saying “I’m OK being led by this person because I value their fiscal policy more than their character”. And in the modern era, we’re seeing increasing signs that society at large has taken notice of that distinction.

Oh, I don't mean to excuse it, and you kind of are asking for it if you say who you voted for, but just espousing a conservative viewpoint, provided it's not a viewpoint that has been given home amongst the conservative party despite being repugnant, isn't going to get you flack. "I wish taxes were lower" isn't going to lose you a job

It’s a lot harder to find candidates to vote for than to vote against. You may find fiscal policy more important than dress codes. Or environmental policy more important than school prayer.

> run counter to science, diversity/inclusivity, and human rights

I see it has "healthy scepticism".

The uncomfortable truth is that this in large part predicated on the culture set by the founders of the company. Only founders have the leeway to dictate what is culturally apropos. Although, I believe that there are strong regional forcing functions that heavily encourage founders to lean one way (in silicon valley, this is usually left). In particular these forcing functions are ability to recruit, form business partnerships and generate positive peer/user sentiment. If you are part of the political out group this can severely hamper your ability to do many of the things necessary for success which is why you don't see any companies riding against the wave (it's hard enough as it is).

That's bait.

It depends, but some areas of tech are more welcoming than others. If you're more libertarian right-leaning, fintech is probably a decent bet. If non-libertarian right-wing, you could always get a clearance and work for one of the many defence contractors in NoVA or MD.

You'd likely be miserable in SF or Seattle though. In some circles it isn't enough just to shut up regarding certain topics - "silence is violence" and you're expected to enthusiastically applaud the zeitgeist of the week.

Moving the opposite direction, just discovered west coast social justice issues. Jesus christ.

I initially misinterpreted the question a bit, and edited it for clarity. I was listing sub-fields where it still is possible to get away with being openly right-wing. Presumably people more to the libertarian end of the spectrum would want to avoid the military industrial complex though.

Are you a good person?

That's a weird, loaded, and hard to answer question. It's subjective, and equally in your favor as it is out of it. Politics should have no bearing on your success in the tech world, and if it does then I think you're participating in politics wrong. You can't be openly political anywhere without expecting repercussions, especially now. This concept of "can you be conservative in this" and "can you be liberal in that" is all about setting these self-fulfilling prophecies that only serve to redouble your own political beliefs. Be smart, and stop trying to make other people accountable for the way you behave.

The problem is what is "right-leaning"? Once upon a time, that would be someone roughly in the center, who leans to the right right. A moderate who is anti-abortion, pro gun rights, low taxes.

These days, its' all or nothing -- you're either left or right. Democrats wold have you believe that all Republicans are pro-Trump, gun nuts, and believe Trump won the election. Republicans would have you believe that all democrats are socialists and we need to raise taxes.

It's just easier to keep politics out of the office as much as possible.

Not really, as evidenced by the comments here. If you're a libertarian or fiscal conservative--a liberal capitalist--you can squeak by as long as you make obeisance on social issues. If you're a member of a protected class you may get a little more leeway. I'm basically a Democrat from 20 years ago and have to keep my head down at all times.


Always hide your power level.

First question I ask when interviewing candidates is which La Blue Girl OVA is their favorite.

I could say I don't support or believe in tech censorship, vaccine passports, virtue signaling, BLM, critical race theory, white guilt/privilege and that I don't believe that trans women are women.

However, I suspect that it's true that an employer would not approve of that, and that right leaning beliefs or believers don't get a fair shake in this climate.

So I think it's best to not be open about and say such things. 80% of your paycheck is to do the job, and the 20% is to not have any opinions or sexually harass anyone.

The "Milgram Experiments" were successful because of people "just doing their jobs". If the situation has regressed to the point of being a bystander then I'm not sure what's best here.

There is some evidence that the Milgram experiments were manipulated and don't actually show what you claim. See the Validity section of the Wikipedia page for criticisms. At least we can't draw any reliable conclusions from an experiment that was never reproduced.


Ideally a law where a person can't be fired because they have offensive political beliefs or opinions, I like tenure in universities

Well obviously nobody is fired for that.

But we obviously don't want to socialize with the right-wing bigot so you missed the lunch meeting where we discussed the future roadmap. I'm not stopping by your desk to ask your opinion about feature X or ask for help with a blocker issue.

Peer reviews bottom out because they are so subjective and manager reviews reflect your very real lack of contribution to the team without the context of the fact that you've been shut out.

It's damn near impossible to fix this in a legislative manner and I'd be a hypocrite if I advocated for such a solution.


> don’t see the value in those people’s lives

Fortunately most people see the value of human life beyond their political beliefs.

Being Black or trans is not a political belief. If you are transphobic you are denying someone their humanity.

Unfortunately modern identity politics have made them political, especially when someone starts waving their rainbow flags in my face.

I just want to see people as "people"...and not see specific groups used as a means to push political agendas.

> 20% is to not have any opinions

Unfortunately, in much of FAANG today, this isn't enough. If you're not openly a progressive you're assumed to be slightly to the right of stalin.

Faking or hiding an opinion to fit in isn't having an opinion. It's acting.

You can, kinda.

I'm a very small government person. Far more libertarian than republican but the general republican obstructionism in government suits my ends so I like them better than democrats these days.

I'm "out" within my own smallish company. I'm in a very secure position there though and even if I wasn't, I'm not in a position where employment is a necessity for me at this point.

> lower taxes and smaller government, or if you are right leaning because you are a homophobic, racist

See, the problem here is that things I ascribe to being in the former category others will chose to ascribe my motivations to the latter. For example, the canonical example of the baker who refused to bake a cake for the gay wedding? I believe that private businesses should be left to their own devices with minimal government regulation, at least inversely proportional to their size/market share.

The baker who bakes cakes where you can just walk across/down the street to another one? If they chose to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding I'm not going there for a few reasons, besides me not wanting to patronize them they don't want me because I'm gay. I wouldn't patronize a bakery that wouldn't serve women (I'm a guy) or black people either (I'm white) because that doesn't align with my values, but, I don't think the government needs to (or should) inject it's morality into the free market. Most people would call me racist/homophobic because of it. As a gay man I'm shut out of most gay spaces because of having this opinion.

Similarly, and frankly worse, in tech. Tech people are a fun combination of so convinced that they are smarter than everyone else and so convinced that Their Way is The Correct Way and that anyone who disagrees is some form of -ist. In fairness, most tech people I meet are wicked smart but they are also myopic and don't always see the full spectrum.

I had an opportunity to join one of the FAANG companies last year at a seriously significant salary hike. I turned it down in large part because I knew I'd either have to constantly lie about my politics or refuse to answer and I've known others who have become labeled evil and complicit by virtue of refusing to answer the question. From asking some trusted friends on the inside about it, the group I was (possibly) joining wasn't nearly as bad as some others and I probably would have been fine never discussing politics, but, these things can change on a dime and I don't really want to hide. I spend all of my life up to college hiding in one closet, I'm not going back into another closet almost 30 years later.

It's a funny dynamic too, even though it's not open there are conservatives in tech in companies where you wouldn't expect, If we don't know who the others are we do a funny tiptoe around each other to identify (there's no secret handshake or code words unfortunately). We have to suss each other out very carefully. I remember when I was in a conversation with someone in my company and someone from a 3rd party vendor (I knew them both well, but, neither of them had ever spoken) and let slip something which I normally wouldn't say around others. My co-worker gave me laser eyes like "be more careful!" and I quickly responded to explain that Bob was cool.

So are conservatives in tech persecuted in the USA? IMO, absolutely.

Can you be openly right-leaning? For now, you can be, in the right circumstances, at the expense of either your career entirely or at the expense of limiting your career options drastically.

Where is it heading? Reeducation camps for wrong think.

If none of the above convinces you perhaps merely even the fact that this is a question which needs to be asked will give you some pause.

You can't even have friends who are "too right wing".

Right leaning sure! I’m right leaning… I mean at least I think I am since I’m a Republican [3].

For the most part, what makes people “lean right” is religious precepts [1] which are covered under Federal labor law protections so no one can actually discriminate against you if you voice them. The other thing that traditionally made people lean right is economic concepts (think Ron Paul), and at worst people think you’re boring for bringing that stuff up.

Thing is none of that stuff is really in vogue so we who lean right in that way basically don’t talk about it, and are totally overlooked by the media.

What you can’t be is…

1. A supporter of Trump and/or the insurgents

2. A ethonationalist of any kind

3. Someone who can’t help but speak out against a protected group (e.g. women, transgendered, people of foreign birth)

Now politics wise we who merely “lean right” would say that all of those three groups aren’t on our right… they’re on a totally different spectrum same as the one occupied by ecoterrorists, and authoritarian communists.

Now I come from Northern Virginia, the actual birthplace of that flag southerners love waving so frantically and I know many people who count themselves as conservative (religiously, economically, socially) who trashed their flags when they learned the story behind their creation[2].

So right vs left? It’s not really that simple.

[1] My screen name is from the sadly much diminished jeans company, but in their heyday that denim really deserved its cult following.

[2] William Porcher Miles designed the flag of the army of northern Virginia, which is now basically known as the confederate flag. You would be hard pressed to find a dude more supportive of slavery than this guy. He started his political career just to advocate for keeping people in chains, and said it was a “Divine institution” and the white in the flag was representative of … you guessed it white skin. Can’t get more white nationalist than that.

[3] Left and right are concepts of political parties in the US, not actual beliefs. I’m kinda hoping the Democrats will create space to capture all the people in the Republican Party who do not love the direction it’s gone down in the past 10 years.

Something that I've thought about is that, yes you can be against the crazy in the GOP, but ultimately if you vote for them you are emboldening people like MTG and others who have spawned from the Trump Pool.

I find it hard to imagine that any vote for the GOP doesn't end up shifting the overton window more towards their side. Full disclosure, I say this as a Bernie supporter so I guess from your point of view I would be the mirror image

It depends if you are right leaning because you want lower taxes and smaller government, or if you are right leaning because you are a homophobic, racist.

I don't think it does. The two camps are very anti-each-other, and they don't have a lot of nuance for what beliefs get you to your side. In fact, in 99% of my interactions, they don't know how I arrived on my side.

I think it's more likely to be divulged by talk about the president or presidential candidates.

I don't think this is true of highly rational people, but I do think it's true of most people that I encounter.

> I think it's more likely to be divulged by talk about the president or presidential candidates

Sure, because if somebody says they’re pro-Trump (or really, pro most Republican candidates these days), they’re not saying “I lean towards conservative views”, they’re saying at a minimum “I’m OK supporting Trump because his xenophobia/sexism/etc are lesser concerns to me than his views that I like”.

There are plenty of conservatives in tech. The problem is that the modern Republican Party is no longer guided by conservative principles.

The word "homophobic" is used to discredit any disapproval of homosexuality -- it must be a "phobia" and is not rational, and the issue is not open to discussion. To answer the OP, especially on social issues, you cannot be openly right-wing.

I think you may be inventing a distinction. Nobody is trying to make “disapproval of homosexuality” sound worse by making it a “phobia”. It already sounds bad on its own. Stop disapproving of other people’s identity.

What is an example of a legitimate and rational disapproval of homosexuality?

Are you joking? 29% of Americans identify as Republicans, 44% as "right-leaning." I assume most of them live "openly." Fox News, openly politically right-leaning, remains the most-watched network in the US. Members of my own family and circle of friends lean right, openly and proudly, just like I lean progressive, openly.


Looking at the rest of North America, it looks like lots of Canadians openly act on right-leaning political beliefs:


The other large democracy in North America -- Mexico -- has a large and visible right-leaning constituency.

Maybe in the echo chambers of the Bay Area or New York or LA expressing right-leaning political views gets a dismissive reaction, but that certainly isn't the case across North America.

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