No one ever accused Peter Thiel of being transparent. But his decision not just to support Donald Trump but to speak on his behalf at the Game of Thrones episode called the Republican National Convention is a real head-scratcher. His peers in Silicon Valley consider the move bizarre, but then again, that’s in line with Thiel’s unconventional ideas.
What makes the PayPal founder’s endorsement so perplexing is that he is much more a libertarian than a traditional small-government conservative (or whatever Trump is selling). In the 2012 election cycle, Thiel single-handedly kept Ron Paul’s campaign afloat. Paul believed in as little government as possible, proposing to eliminate Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. By contrast, Trump has promised never to cut entitlements and has even promised a more fabulous version of Obamacare.
How you square the two philosophies is hard to figure. It’s not like Thiel doesn’t have options. Gary Johnson is a perfectly good libertarian candidate running for president this year, who has been pro-marriage equality for years.
Still, Thiel made his case to the convention on closing night. Some of his reasons were out in the open. Others, not so much. Here’s a rundown of the reasons why, against all odds, Thiel supports Trump.
Thiel dislikes foreign intervention.
Trump believes in a non-intervention policy even when it comes to NATO allies. Ron Paul was also famously opposed to military operations, even bucking his party to vote against the Iraq War. Thiel made a point in his speech of complaining about past military excursions, with a characteristic Thiel twist: “Instead of going to Mars, we have invaded the Middle East,” adding “Donald Trump is right. It is time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.”
Business tycoons stick together.
The band of truly rich businessmen is a small one, and it’s a strange fraternity. It’s a shared experience, like the military or old school ties. That may make for a deeper connection to Thiel than political philosophy. Thiel may think that a business background is better for the country than a policy background because businessmen (and it is men) like himself know better.
He’s hoping that Trump will shatter government.
One country’s chaos is a wealthy man’s opportunity. A Trump presidency would be such a disaster that the country could really become a free-for-all. A man who has written that democracy is incompatible with freedom may be willing to bet that a dysfunctional government will break the abiding social construct.
He wants to loosen libel laws.
Thiel’s vendetta against Gawker on behalf of Hulk Hogan highlights Thiel’s antipathy toward the press. That’s something that he has in common with Trump, who wants to “open up” libel laws so “we can sue them and win lots of money.”
Maybe the gay thing actually matters.
Thiel hasn’t exactly been the poster child for LGBT rights, but he did make a point during his speech to say that he was “proud to be gay.” Despite his penchant for attacking everyone different, Trump has largely been silent on gay issues. Perhaps Thiel saw that as a major advance in the Republican party. It certainly is a step up from Ron Paul, who published homophobic articles in his newsletters. As if in gratitude, in his acceptance speech Trump telepromptered his way through a reference to the Pulse massacre, promising to “protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” Perhaps in Thiel’s universe, this is what constitutes progress.