Technology and the US Election
You may have noticed there was an election Tuesday. Pretty much as expected, Republicans regained control of the House, Democrats retained the Senate, and many Governorships shifted from Democratic to Republican control. These were national trends, but local outcomes on the West Coast didn’t follow, as California elected a Democratic Party governor, Jerry Brown, who had previously served in that capacity after Reagan.
The election was significant for technology in a number of ways. California voters rejected two former technology CEOs, eBay’s Meg Whitman and HP’s Carly Fiorina, most probably because both ran as Republicans in a heavily Democratic state, and in part because neither had any history of holding elected office. The Fiorina campaign was especially colorful, as the candidate refused to concede on election night after all the news organizations had called the race for her opponent, long-time senator Barbara Boxer. She termed the election a dead heat, and went on to lose by 10 points.
Long-time Congressman and Democratic chair of the Communications, Technology, and the Internet subcommittee Rick Boucher of Virginia was defeated in one of the first signs that election night was going to be a happy occasion for Republicans. Boucher was widely respected and will be missed. Speculation is rampant in DC about his successors, with names such as Markey, Eshoo, and Doyle suggested on the Democratic side for Ranking Member and Stearns and Barton on the Republican side for Chairman. Barton is a former chairman, but Stearns was Ranking Member during the last session. Markey is a former chair, Eshoo represents the Google district, and Doyle has been very strongly in support of net neutrality.
All, or virtually all of 95 of the candidates who signed on to the PCCC’s Net Neutrality pledge were defeated (some races are yet to be called) so there’s essentially no prospect of a net neutrality bill passing anytime soon, although we may see some legislation clarifying the FCC’s authority if the Commission makes a move to reclassify under Title II. We should expect some action on privacy, spectrum, and possibly on USF reform.
Generally, the Republicans did a bit better than expected, but the Tea Party did a bit worse. Many analysts have suggested that the failure of Tea Party-backed candidates for Senate in Maryland, Nevada, and California (Fiorina had support from Palin and the Tea Party) prevented the Republicans from retaking the Senate. This election puts net neutrality on the back burner, and raises the importance of spectrum, intellectual property protection, and Internet privacy. Or so it would appear; these things never turn out exactly as one expects, of course. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisles are deeply concerned about the economy, the debt, and employment, and a focus on the positives of technology over such negatives as net neutrality ought to help with all these things.