Will Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg break out the wine and cheese for the GOP after immigration rebuff?

Now that the immigration bill that Silicon Valley was banking on looks like it’s gone from a sure thing to toast, it’s time to start pointing fingers at those who screwed it up.

House Republicans.

That was easy.

And now Hilicon Valley is wondering whether there will be hell to pay when GOP members of Congress travel to the valley with their hands out looking for campaign cash.

It’s a good question, given that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman and others, through their association with Zuck’s Fwd.us, risked being seen as ready to rape the land with the XL Pipeline and march backwards by opposing the Affordable Care Act in the interest of gaining Republican support for the immigration bill.

You remember that ham-handed advertising campaign, don’t you?

All that said, it’s hard not to think the valley lobbying effort on comprehensive immigration reform (including provisions that would allow more foreign tech workers, provide a visa for company founders with backing and jobs and make it easier for brilliant immigrant graduates to stay here) has run into a culture clash of epic proportion.

On the campuses of Google and Facebook and elsewhere, data reigns supreme. Decisions are made in a Spock-like trance of rationality.

And the Republican-led House? They tend toward bat-spit crazy. Not all House members, of course. And certainly not all Republicans. But there is a core, the Tea Party among others, who are unwavering in their positions. Compromise is defeat. Never mind what’s good for the economy or the country.

Add to that, Rep. John Boehner, the weakened speaker from Ohio, and you get a total breakdown of the time-honored tradition of political horse-trading.

The immigration bill, with its goodies for big business, agriculture, border security hardliners and Democrats who’d like to see a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who’ve worked and paid taxes in the U.S., seemed like an ideal vehicle to finally do something about a challenge that has been vexing policymakers for decades.

It was a classic legislative model: A little something for everyone to hate. For that reason, I was fairly well convinced that real reform was coming.

Add to that, that Republicans, many of whom opposed citizenship for the undocumented under any circumstances, realized they need to attract Latino voters to survive, and it seemed like a lock.

Consider this blunt assessment from the National Republican Committee, as reported on the New Yorker Daily Comment blog:

“Unless the RNC gets serious about tackling this problem, we will lose future elections; the data demonstrates this. In both 2008 and 2012, President Obama won a combined 80 percent of the votes of all minority voters, including not only African Americans but also Hispanics, Asians, and others. The minority groups that President Obama carried with 80 percent of the vote in 2012 are on track to become a majority of the nation’s population by 2050. Today these minority groups make up 37 percent of the population, and they cast a record 28 percent of the votes in the 2012 presidential election, according to the election exit polls, an increase of 2 percentage points from 2008. We have to work harder at engaging demographic partners and allies…”

But the new breed of House Republican doesn’t play the compromise game. They want a bill that they can love in every way — or no bill at all. And they seem unconvinced that they need to broaden their appeal to voters who traditionally skew Democratic.

In some ways it’s hard to believe that the smartest guys and women in the room, as every Silicon Valley leader seems to think of himself or herself, didn’t see all this coming.

Michelle Quinn’s recent Politico piece quotes a few people who have some ideas on what might have happened.

I say “happened,” as if this fight is over. Of course, it is not. And Washington has become so weird that it’s impossible to predict what will happen in the future.

Well, except for one thing: It’s bound to get weirder.

Mike Cassidy Mike Cassidy (173 Posts)

I write about the culture of Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News.