The Great Tech Debate Presidential Candidates Should Be Having

Last week, TechCrunch held its semi-annual technology conference in New York City. And while there’s typically nothing surprising about it, there was one notable first for the publication: a presidential candidate took the stage to address the community. That’s right, ousted HP CEOturned-presidential candidate Carly Fiorina made an appearance on the second day of TechCrunch Disrupt New York for an interview with TechCrunch TV star Sarah Lane.

I watched Fiorina’s interview and she was very composed and was intelligent in answering some of the questions (not all). But I’m not going to comment on her talk too much. Rather, the one thing that struck me was that since Fiorina’s appearance marked the first time a presidential candidate (albeit one with a long-shot) from a major political party spoke to TechCrunch, is this a time when the technology community should be keen on hearing candidates’ positions about matters that relate to them?

This whole notion started out with but a tweet and shortly ballooned from there. Sure, some may have taken it for a joke and there are some that may think that it’s out of the realm of possibility, but my position is this: TechCrunch should request the presence of the declared presidential candidates at a public debate on stage at one of its conferences.

Okay, so how would this play out? Well certainly someone would have to fight tooth and nail in order to get the attention of each candidate in order to assess whether they’d do it. But it may appear easier for some than for others. Just look at during President Barack Obama’s administration when he courted Silicon Valley venture capitalists and held fundraisers here left and right. The Democratic party is capitalizing on the relationships with the technology industry in California in order to pull in money. The White House has steadily brought on board recognized and respected tech professionals, such as former Google executive Megan Smith to be the newest Chief Technology Officer, Twitter’s former Head of Public Policy and General Counsel Alex Macgillivray as her deputy, and many more. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also is looking to Silicon Valley for help.

Republicans aren’t shying away either, even though California leans towards the Democrats. Just this weekend, presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul made a stop in the San Francisco Bay Area to not only campaign, but also opened up a “tech hub” in the area. And there’s certainly more activity coming from the GOP to tap into the innovation and financial resources that Silicon Valley can bring to bear.

I chose TechCrunch because it’s simply the tech industry publication of record and likely has the biggest reach. Plus it has had extensive coverage of major issues affecting the industry, such as Net Neutrality, SOPA/PIPA, immigration reform, the JOBS Act, Edward Snowden and the NSA, gender and racial inequality, and more. So I posit that what would be great to happen is that TechCrunch hosts a debate during the San Francisco edition of its TechCrunch Disrupt conference between the major candidates — it can be after the main sessions as part of an evening thing. It doesn’t need to be broadcast on a major network like ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX, etc. but rather can be livestreamed on UStream,, Yahoo, YouTube, Facebook, — the major networks of the tech generation. Questions would be specific to the tech industry, especially if the candidate wants to court the audience to vote for them.

But wait, would you have both GOP and Democratic candidates on stage at the same time?!? Probably not and no party would agree to that — at least not until the general election cycle kicks off after the party conventions, which all will take place in July 2016. So a thought would be that in the 2016 fall edition of TechCrunch Disrupt, prior to the actual election, the two candidates square off on stage — would it be too little too late by that time? Perhaps…so maybe TechCrunch should just focus on just one political party and I’m leaning towards the Republicans because they have the most people in the field right now. Once there are more candidates on the Democrats side, then that should also be a possibility.

Who knows, it’s a wishful thing and possibly something out of the realm of possibility. But as technology definitely becomes a big influence in our daily lives, both in how our government uses it for and against us, what we do with it in the homes to entertain and inform ourselves, and how companies are playing a big role in affecting how that content gets to us, Silicon Valley should continue to pay attention to these candidates. All those declared for the highest office in the land also should consider if such a debate were planned as millions of young voters, venture capitalists, influencers, pundits, etc. will be commenting, tweeting, sharing videos, and making memes out of their responses — there’d be instant connection with a audience no one thought possible.

Maybe I’m just crazy and expect a conversation more interesting than what is already on TV.

Image credit: TechCrunch

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