California GOP parties like it's 1999

Two dot-com bubble CEOs eye the Golden State's biggest races

By Gabriel Winant
Published July 10, 2009 8:40PM (UTC)
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If you want to know where America will be in ten years, they say, look at California. But today it seems like the Golden State is showing us where we were ten years ago.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Carly Fiorina, the CEO-celebrity who ran Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005, is likely to run for Senate against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer. Fiorina ran HP during the burst of the dot-com bubble, and, as one of the country’s most prominent corporate chieftains, attracted a lot of national attention for her drawn-out war with the company’s board. The dispute ultimately ended in her dismissal as CEO.

Fiorina waded into politics during the 2008 campaign as one of John McCain’s favored surrogates on the economy, and her name was periodically floated as a potential running mate. However, she was sidelined after saying she didn’t think John McCain or Sarah Palin (or Barack Obama or Joe Biden) was qualified to run a major corporation. “It is a fallacy to suggest that the country is like a company,” Fiorina said.

Most likely, the former HP chief won’t be the only Silicon Valley veteran on the ticket. The frontrunner for the GOP’s gubernatorial nomination is Meg Whitman, the former head of eBay, and another prominent 2008 Republican surrogate.

Though it’s probably a good strategy for the Republicans to emphasize the Silicon Valley wing of their party, which is generally more moderate and successful in statewide elections, there’s still something a bit funny about a Hewlett-Packard/eBay slate. We probably won’t be hearing many more lines like the one that got Fiorina in trouble, that's for sure.

One final word of advice to these two Golden State warriors: Try not to wax too nostalgic for the good old days. Dwell too much on 1999, and you’re going to end up sounding like you’re a shill for

Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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