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We're with her... kinda

Engineering is backing Hillary Clinton for president, but also already missing Barack Obama

Chances are that next Tuesday (November 8), US engineering will get what it wants and Hillary Clinton will be elected President.

How do we know that? Well, by the most brutal measure available - money - Clinton has outraised Donald Trump by more than 20-to-1: $15m vs $706,000 according to the most recent data from Crowdpac, a non-partisan group that tracks political donations by individuals and organisations.

The policies also offer a clue. Hillary favours immigration reform and maintenance of the H1B visa scheme; Trump does not. Hillary opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal but is willing to seek out other more palatable ones; Trump would potentially tear up those that already exist. Hillary gets the cyber-security challenge, even if she doesn’t appear to get email; Trump Tweetrages at 3am.

We now have to add that - as is the case for much of America - engineering is offering qualified support. Against the $15m it has sent to the Clinton campaign, you need to consider the $92m sent by Finance & Insurance, $40m sent by Healthcare and $25m sent by Media & Entertainment.

You cannot any more explain away these differences by saying that engineering has long sought to hold government at arm’s length and made its donations accordingly.

With the rise of companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple, Silicon Valley has established a far more aggressive lobbying presence in Washington DC than ever before. Similarly, the Valley’s leaders have themselves been quick to harness the power of the internet to get behind their own single-issue causes. Most notably, Mark Zuckerberg set up Fwd.us to campaign for immigration reform.

Engineering’s broad view remains that Hillary is the lesser of two evils, although she does have many strong personal supporters within the sector.

This is rather sad and it reflects a way in which many technology leaders believe the relationship between their world and the political one is about to regress, whoever does actually win.

They haven’t liked everything that President Obama has done – if you want to split a room in San Jose, just mention healthcare reform – but there was the sense that he admired good engineering, made the effort to understand innovation and pushed a STEM agenda both economically and in education.

As her email travails appear to show, Hillary Clinton comes from an earlier generation. Indeed, when her husband Bill was in charge, he largely delegated much of the early governmental work on opening up the internet to Al Gore.

How open is Hillary to change, they wonder. Certainly, she is heading for one battle with Silicon Valley over her concerns about the increasing casualisation of the Uber-led ‘gig economy’ (though here she’s probably right to worry).

Engineering has worked around technologically ignorant and even technophobic administrations before. You can’t stop good ideas that easily. But for the last eight years, that hasn’t really been necessary and it’s made life, well, much easier.

And whatever happens on November 8, the overall feeling is that that is about to change.

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