Already a member? Log In

President of the Biden-Skeptic Billionaires

Sam Altman has some eclectic views that don’t fit neatly into progressive dogma—but like most liberals in tech, he has been deeply unnerved by the real and growing threat of a second Donald Trump presidency.
Sam Altman has some eclectic views that don’t fit neatly into progressive dogma—but like most liberals in tech, he has been deeply unnerved by the real and growing threat of a second Donald Trump presidency. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Theodore Schleifer
November 7, 2023

This past Friday morning in San Francisco, Dean Phillips—the Democratic congressman waging a quixotic primary challenge against Joe Biden—arrived at the doorstep of one of the most important people in Silicon Valley: Sam Altman, the C.E.O. of OpenAI. A Democratic power player who, a political lifetime ago, considered running for governor of California, Altman has some eclectic views that don’t fit neatly into progressive dogma. But like most liberals in tech, he has been deeply unnerved by the real and growing threat of a second Donald Trump presidency. Thus, the Altman-Phillips summit in Russian Hill.

Altman, over the last 18 months or so, has ascended from mere Silicon Valley celebrity into a new stratosphere in the culture, cheerily proselytizing the A.I. revolution to regulators in Washington. All the while, he has refrained from speaking publicly about his own political plots. But behind the scenes, the baby-faced former Y Combinator chief has recently made it clear to friends and Phillips aides that he is considering playing a major role in supporting Phillips’s presidential run over the next few months. (Altman, who is not yet ready to discuss his involvement publicly, declined my interview request.)