A big chunk of the 2020 Democratic field began making Texas an unlikely early-state stop Saturday and pushed back on big tech in front of young, social-media savvy crowds in a city where companies including Google and Apple have big footprints.
Texas is an early primary state, but the real draw of the South by Southwest Festival in Austin for Democrats is face time with the party’s ascendant young and liberal wing. The festival has grown from obscure roots into a weeklong juggernaut of tech, politics and entertainment.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts defended her new call to break up tech giants to an audience dotted with employees of some of those very companies. Her appearance began with her interviewer asking tech employees in the crowd to stand up. Warren scanned the room as several people got on the feet.
“There are parts about big tech that are frankly just like railroads of the Teddy Roosevelt era,” she said. “What’s new is old. When someone gets market dominance, how then they start to destroy competition.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota kicked off SXSW with promises to reign in tech companies and by saying that she has spoken to former President Obama about her own presidential ambitions.
Klobuchar wouldn’t go as far as Warren when asked whether Google or Facebook should be broken up.
“I would want to have it investigated. That is how I do things,” she said. If anti-competitive problems are discovered, Klobuchar said, “then you come up with a plan to break up or to move something out if there is a piece of it that is anti-competitive.”
Klobuchar criticized the tech industry for not protecting privacy and floated the idea of taxing social media companies when they sell personal data, but she did not give specifics.
Beto O’Rourke swung by the trendy and techie SXSW, too, but still didn’t announce whether he will embark on a White House run.
Officially, O’Rourke wasn’t part of the the festival lineup. The former Texas congressman attended a documentary about his long-shot U.S. Senate campaign that may or may not become the springboard to a White House run.