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It’s not even a metaphor: Trump is not just akin to a big Hollywood producer—he actually is a big Hollywood producer. In fact, just last week Trump confirmed that he will continue to serve as an executive producer on The Celebrity Apprentice from the White House. (In an ironic turn, bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger will replace Trump as host.) While best known as a real-estate developer, Trump’s business interests have included entertainment for decades—his books, the Miss Universe pageant, The Apprentice, a modeling agency—not to mention the blurry line between Trump’s holdings in hospitality, casinos, food, retail, and the entertainment sector broadly construed. To call the 2016 election the final merger of politics and reality television, or to call Donald Trump the first CEO-president isn’t sufficient. Trump is the first Executive Producer in the Executive Branch.
It is in this role, as a Hollywood-style mogul, that Trump’s latest encounter with the technology industry is best understood.
This week, Trump will host a summit for technology leaders. With the exception of venture capitalist and vocal Trump supporter Peter Thiel, the tech sector has mostly been at loggerheads with Trump since the campaign began. Generally speaking, the industry is economically libertarian but socially progressive. Even though its own infrastructure, like Facebook and Reddit, probably helped spread support for Trump, tech leaders generally supported Hillary Clinton on social issues while opposing Trump on immigration, encryption, and other hot-button issues for the sector.
Over the weekend, Recode’s Kara Swisher reported that the meeting, to be held Wednesday at Trump Tower, will be attended by a small group of key players. Among them: Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet CEO Sergey Brin, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and the chief executives of Cisco, IBM, Intel, and Oracle. Swisher also writes that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos—who owns the The Washington Post, which has been critical of Trump—was also invited and “is likely to attend.”
Recode indicates that Trump transition adviser Peter Thiel had a hard time convincing more tech leaders to attend, speculating that the “cool kids” of tech, like Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, and VCs Marc Andreessen and Reid Hoffman, were either not invited or not attending.
Tech-oriented folks like Swisher might like to believe that accepting (or refusing) the invitation represents a possible resistance against the Trump administration. But as I’ve previously argued, that opposition might ultimately be short-lived. A Trump presidency is ultimately compatible with the technology industry’s business goals: lower taxation, reduced regulation, renegotiated trade, and a campaign commitment to domestic infrastructure investment that could benefit Silicon Valley.