Kirkus Star


The Democrats and Silicon Valley


The chronicle of a farcically troubled marriage between two rich, hubristic West Coast techies and their e-mail–challenged D.C. counterparts.

Miles (who’s covered politics for Wired) has spent the past four years—the height of the era—with New Economy wunderkinds and Washington powerbrokers. Her star player is the self-appointed kingmaker Wade Randlett, a former fundraiser and centrist “New Democrat” who fashioned himself as the go-between for politicos (for whom the Internet was not much more than a breeding ground for Matt Drudge) and technocrats (who were, at best, apolitical and, at worst, “naïve libertarians”). In 1996 Randlett found common ground with legendary venture capitalist John Doerr and enlisted him in a sort of grassroots campaign for millionaires to undo California’s controversial Proposition 211 (which would have facilitated shareholder lawsuits against company executives). The subsequent defeat of 211 landed Randlett in the center of what would become Silicon Valley’s impressive, if easily retractable, access to the White House and Congress. The political-economic back-and-forth was a windfall for the technos (in terms of legislation) and for the pols (in terms of money)—an arrangement that would soon settle into a common special-interest quid pro quo. But before Miles’s account wonders off into the sunset, her fly-on-the-wall reporting proves breathtaking. In particular, she has fun with the culture clash between the ancien régime and the Young Turks: in one raucous instance, Doerr (with little grasp or concern for proper senatorial gravitas) lectures an incredulous Senator Jay Rockefeller on how things will be done, causing one onlooker to quip, “Get me a camera. . . . That’s old money versus new money right there.” In between anti-Microsoft conspiracy rumors and cameos from Bezos et al., Miles offers trenchant analyses of, among other things, the “digital divide” and the nuances of party subdivisions.

A sweeping debut not only for the author but also for this branch of American poli-sci, with color on every page and a hacker’s gift for cutting through the blather.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-374-17714-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2000