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Why Are Tech Bros Suddenly Lining Up Behind Long-Shot Democrat Dean Phillips?
January 24, 2024

Why Are Tech Bros Suddenly Lining Up Behind Long-Shot Democrat Dean Phillips?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

With Vivek Ramaswamy Out of the Presidential Race, Tech-Bro Billionaires Have Been Flocking to … Democrat Dean Phillips?, Vivek Ramaswamy has departed the presidential race. His supporters have moved on., Dean Phillips presidential campaign: With Vivek Ram

The long-shot, conspiracy-suffused, nakedly publicity-seeking campaign of Vivek Ramaswamy came to an ignominious end on Monday night, after he finished fourth place in the Iowa caucuses. Having failed to capture even 8 percent of the vote, the biotech entrepreneur departed the race by endorsing front-runner Donald Trump. He’s previously said he would turn down any potential offer for the VP slot, but he now seems to be considering that option (with conditions, of course). Meanwhile, Ramaswamy’s base of super-online trolls (e.g., Elon Musk, Bill Ackman, ‘anti-woke’ venture capitalists) have gradually been moving on to their next great hope for shaking up the 2024 race: Democratic Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips.

Yep, you read that correctly: The wealthy oligarchs who’ve backed Ramaswamy and third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are now leaning toward a decidedly liberal, milquetoast Dem polling behind Marianne Williamson, who is unbelievably still in the race as well.

A lot of prominent, moneyed people are desperate for the 54-year-old Phillips to replace the 81-year-old Joe Biden on the Democratic ballot. Bill Ackman, the billionaire who’s gained recent notoriety as a plagiarism hypocrite, said he’ll donate $1 million to a pro-Phillips super PAC because he sees a ‘credible path’ for Phillips to overtake Biden down the line. Jason Calacanis, an angel investor and podcaster with an undying love for the Musk era of Twitter, started hosting a series of ‘conversations‘ with Phillips last month. Calacanis has been backing RFK Jr., but maybe he’ll be influenced by Musk himself, who seems to be turning into a Phillips reply guy. Indeed, right as Iowans braved frigid conditions to cast their votes, Ackman, Calacanis, and Musk hosted an hourlong Twitter Space with Phillips. Perhaps understanding the right-leaning tendencies of his hosts, Phillips took the opportunity to say he would set up ‘the most extraordinary bipartisan Cabinet in American history‘—one that might perhaps include Musk and/or Ackman. One eager listener to the Space? Andrew Yang, who’s rebranded himself as one of Phillips’ most enthusiastic supporters.

Such glad-handing between Phillips and the business world isn’t new. For much of his campaign—which started this past October after he fruitlessly begged his party to primary Biden, due to legitimate concerns around his old age and frankly alarming approval numbers—Phillips has found most of his tiny support within this community of tech-bro business guys. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has taken interest in the congressman, and a couple of his Silicon Valley associates launched the super PAC to which Ackman’s donating. Joe Rogan believes Phillips could maybe pull it off. The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board praised Phillips for his willingness to challenge Biden, saying he ‘isn’t a flake like RFK Jr.

It’s more than fair to be worried about Biden’s reelection prospects amid the sea of grim polling numbers and an increasing certainty that he’ll be the main thing standing between America and a second Trump term. But … what assures these great minds that Phillips can take over? Perhaps it’s that Phillips, one of Congress’ wealthiest members, has an extensive business background. He’s an MBA holder, heir to the Phillips family liquor dynasty, former head of Talenti gelato, and founder of Twin Cities coffee chain Penny’s. Plus, he won his seat by flipping a Republican-held district in 2018. Backers also seem to like that despite his Biden-aligned voting record and progressive outlooks on health policy and the filibuster, Phillips has bashed his party for ‘demeaning’ Border Patrol agents, called the current migrant influx an ‘unforgiveable disaster,’ and stood firm in his support of Israel.

But for all Phillips’ insistence that Biden can’t beat Trump again, it’s unclear whence his own confidence arises. He only raised $1 million last quarter and has already had to lend twice that amount to his campaign from his own pockets. So far, he’s only broken through in right-leaning conservative media markets that love his border stance, his Biden-mocking ads, and the false equivalency he’s made between his state-ballot troubles and the Jan. 6 insurrection. The audience for his New Hampshire debate with Marianne Williamson consisted of seventh graders.

The tech-bro billionaire set might be deluded enough to think that their money and influence can make a contender out of an unknown, uninspiring, Midwestern congressman whose primary message is ‘Biden is old.’ But it’s weird for Phillips to think he can make it in the Democratic primary and beat Trump by kowtowing with people like Musk, who’s been parroting racist pseudoscience and boosting Stephen Miller’s ‘America First Legal’ firm. Then again, Phillips isn’t really here because he thinks he can become president. He’s here to mingle with exactly these types—just like Vivek Ramaswamy was. Maybe the shift isn’t so confusing after all.


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