Big Tech barely breaks through Democratic debate despite push to regulate the industry

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the most aggressive 2020 candidate when it comes to Big Tech. (Flickr Photo / Elizabeth Warren)

Big Tech has become a target in the 2020 presidential race as Democrats regularly take shots at the industry’s titans. With proposed legislation that would rein in the power of tech companies, it seemed like a fertile topic for the Democratic debate Wednesday.

But there was almost no discussion of Big Tech, even though the industry has become emblematic of unruly corporate influence and economic inequality. The two-hour debate covered a range of topics, including immigration, gun violence, and impeaching President Donald Trump.

Tech had just one brief moment at the beginning of the debate.

Who said what: Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s ambitious proposal to break up Big Tech was the subject of one of the first debate questions, though it was aimed at Sen. Cory Booker. Asked about previous comments in which Booker said we shouldn’t single out specific companies, he said, “I will single out companies like Halliburton or Amazon that pay nothing in taxes and our need to change that.”

Amazon disputed a similar claim by former Vice President Joe Biden in a tweet earlier this month.

Booker said he would work to correct the “serious problem in our country with corporate consolidation.”

Asked about her plan, Warren echoed, “There is way too much consolidation now in giant industries in this country.”

Julián Castro, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren during the 2020 Democratic debate. (YouTube Screenshot)

“It has been far too long that the monopolies have been making the campaign contributions, have been funding the Super PACs, have been out there making sure that their voice is heard in every single decision that’s made in Washington,” she added. “Where I want to start this is I want to return government to the people and that means calling out the names of the monopolists and saying I have the courage to go after them.”

Technical difficulties: Though the tech industry didn’t get much play, several minutes of the debate were lost to technical difficulties. The problem arose when moderators’ microphones were left on after they left the stage. The noise caused the new moderators to cut to an unscheduled commercial break as they resolved the issue.

Also overlooked: Like tech, climate change didn’t get much play during the debate. It is the core issue for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, but he only had a handful of opportunities to discuss the threat of global warming.

The takeaway: Tech can feel like the center of the universe for people working in the industry and living in innovations hubs. But even if tech drives the modern American economy, it isn’t necessarily front-of-mind for many Americans. Congress is considering legislation that would reign in the industry — and that could easily be a priority for the next president — but there’s no guarantee it will feature as a marquee issue during the 2020 race.

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