Thiel’s Red Scare

peter thiel
On Tuesday evening, Thiel delivered a searing indictment of the G.O.P.’s performance in the 2022 election cycle. Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images
Theodore Schleifer
December 14, 2022

Despite concern that a demoralized and “blackpilled” Peter Thiel might retreat from G.O.P. fundraising after his midterm setback in Arizona, the conservative billionaire has a few thoughts for the Republican Party. On Tuesday evening, Thiel delivered a searing indictment of the party’s performance in the 2022 election cycle at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, marking his first public comments about Senate winner J.D. Vance, Senate loser Blake Masters, and his more general disappointment with how the G.O.P. fared up and down the ballot. It was the most election-focused speech Thiel has given in years.

Wearing a suit and speaking semi-extemporaneously for some 35 minutes as part of the Reagan Library’s “Time for Choosing” speaker series, Thiel declared the election to be a “depressing disaster” and that the Republican Party needs to focus on defeating Communism as its cardinal virtue, as Reagan did. Three highlights from his self-described “free advice,” which I don’t think have been reported:

  • On Diversity as Weakness: Thiel indicated strong disagreements with both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, with whom Thiel squabbled repeatedly this cycle, and diagnosed the party as having had a “substantive agenda problem” that was “light on detail” and also was simultaneously “rather discombobulated.” Specifically, he argued, the G.O.P.’s political diversity was ultimately a weakness in the midterms. “There are all these different kinds of failure modes. There’s sort of the Mitch McConnell, intuition that you shouldn’t talk about anything substance at all; a nihilistic, maybe passive-aggressive form of nihilism or something like that. Where you’re just not going to do anything, not talk about anything, and have no surface area for attack, which is kind of uninspiring,” he said. “And then there was sort … something like the detailed Paul Ryan, policy wonkery [side], where we go into a lot of details, but somehow the ideas are unpopular. And you’re checkmate on move one.” Thiel called for a politics that could unite “the priest, the general and the millionaire.”
  • On Breaking the Cycle: Thiel said he had “a ringside seat” to this cycle’s midterms because of his Vance and Masters, and that he was frustrated with the overall outcome. I’ve reported that Thiel was deeply disappointed by the fate of Masters in Arizona, and he confirmed that he was “very depressed in the aftermath” of the midterms. He said that this should’ve been a great cycle for Republicans for all the obvious reasons. But he ran through the G.O.P.’s numbers and deemed this year’s results “not merely disastrous but also depressing. If we don’t do something different, we’re just going to be in this Groundhog Day where something like this is going to repeat in 2024 and for the rest of this decade.”
  • On Pivoting to China: Most of Thiel’s speech dealt with one of his favorite hobbyhorses, China, with which he said the U.S. has a “very unhealthy codependent relationship.” He forcefully articulated the belief, growing within key factions of the party, that Republicans have to pivot to fighting Communism in order to regain footing in upcoming elections. “The first step in rejuvenating this party is to think very hard about the challenge of Red China,” Thiel said at the beginning. He concluded: “It may not win you the last election, or the next one, but you’ll be on the right side of history.”

    What the priest, the general and the millionaire have in common, Thiel explained, is that they’re all anti-Communist. “We have all these debates where the Democrats are in favor of a little bit more socialistic democracy, and we’re in favor of a little bit more capitalistic Republicanism. And they’re sort of minor debates.  But if you don’t stand up to Red China, you may end up just sort of being co-opted, a stooge, a patsy.”