Peter Thiel is smarter than you.
That should not be a very controversial statement. Thiel is, after all, one of the most successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. And yet, strangely, few seem open to considering that Thiel's dabbling in politics is smart — that he might actually know best about shoveling big resources, attention, and credibility into a Donald Trump campaign that many of his fellow super-brains despised.
Some say Thiel backed Trump because he's a greedhead, others because he's a fascist. And a few insist that just because he's intelligent doesn't mean he's smart about politics or public policy. But all these different views avoid the easy answer: Thiel was just buying low, earning a stake in politics that will probably pay off bigly.
And indeed, it's already paying off. Trump won. Thiel is reaping the rewards. He might even be tapped to lead Trump's transition efforts.
Naturally, there are reasons to object to Thiel's speculative investment. Trump may be so horrible and risky a bet as a president, with such potentially adverse consequences, that Thiel's investment is morally unsound. But nobody really believes that Thiel's support for Trump has given our president-elect any practical advantages. Thiel probably did not coax many libertarians or Democrats into voting Trump. He wasn't helpful at turning out Trump's base. As for the money, in politics, Thiel's $1.25 million investment was a token sum. So the main argument against Thiel's support for Trump is one that puts seeming on a higher ethical plane than being. Who cares what Thiel "really" thinks or wants? Nothing that involves performing support for Trump, his critics say, could possibly justify that performance.
It is not hard to detect some jealous rage here. Deep down, what people do not like is that Thiel has the luxury of doing whatever he wants regardless of what the haters say. And what they fear as well as loathe is that Thiel has the luxury of building a specific future that they don't. For this reason, they don't want him to be a good guy. It would mean looking up to someone who's free in a way they sense they can never be. So Thiel was pilloried.
He obviously doesn't care what you think, though. Thanks to his brilliant bet on Trump, Thiel has positioned himself well to play a guiding role in a new American politics. Chances are, you haven't. Just because that truth hurts doesn't mean Thiel's influence will hurt too. Given what today's GOP has become, it's all but certain to help.