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IT Executives Afraid To Admit Trump Inaugural Participation, Partners Say Political Talk Is Off Limits With Customers

CRN Staff

A senior executive for one of the top computer companies in the world says normally he would proudly proclaim his participation at the historic inauguration of an incoming president, but not this year.

The executive, who is attending one of the inaugural balls and did not want to be identified, said the political divisiveness in the country is at such a fever pitch that he is not willing to publicly acknowledge his participation in the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. The executive said he fears that such a disclosure would hurt his company or subject him personally to a negative backlash from colleagues or even friends and family.

"It's a very polarized environment right now in America," said the executive. "There are people who think this is going to help businesses and then there are people who think it is a disaster. There are not many people in the middle."

[Related: Solution Providers Hopeful Trump Presidency Will Bring Tax Relief, Health Care Fixes And Regulatory Reform]

That senior technology executive is not alone. Tech executives and solution providers say politics is usually a topic they try to avoid with customers, but in the current political climate, it is taboo.

Among the tech companies that when contacted by CRN would not comment on whether their executives were participating in the inauguration are: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, CenturyLink, AT&T, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, Arista Networks, Juniper Networks and Splunk.

Among the companies confirming that their chief executives were not attending were: IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Cisco, Brocade Communications, Avaya.

Kevin McDonald, executive vice president and Chief Information Security Officer at Alvaka Networks, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider, said he's spoken to others in the tech industry who fear telling anyone that they supported Trump. Many people in the industry are likely afraid to attend the inauguration because "there are cameras everywhere, and they don't want to be seen there," he said.

"People are convinced they should be afraid to have a personal opinion and to support who they want," McDonald said. "If you are not already well-established in your career or in your reputation in tech, there are people who will hold [supporting Trump] against you."

McDonald said he voted for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, but is personally organizing an inauguration-related party on Friday at a restaurant in Tustin, Calif. "It's not a Trump celebration—it's more, 'Hey, let's get together and deal with the idea that a new president is coming in one way or the other,'" said McDonald, who said that several people had un-friended him on Facebook as a result of posting about the party.

A Verizon spokesman said a "few members" of the carrier's federal government affairs team might "attend some inaugural activities, but overall our representation as a company this year is no different from what we’ve done during past inaugurations."

A top executive for a government solution provider who supported Trump and has done business in the Beltway for 12 years, said speaking in defense of Trump has left his son not speaking with him after a Christmas celebration ended with a political disagreement and his son walking out the door. "We are still not speaking," he said.

At the same time, the solution provider executive said he has felt sick sitting in meetings when Trump is bad-mouthed by a customer. "I didn't say a word and felt bad about it afterward," he said. "I work with these people. I need to have a relationship with them. I just don't want to get into it. There are people that talk about how liberal they are but don't want to hear your opinion. They are a one-way street. They are convinced they are right and they know what is best for the rest of the country. They are elitist and think anyone who voted differently is stupid."

The solution provider executive said he was disturbed by the political climate and especially the congressmen that refuse to attend the inauguration. "You can't start out a new presidency by having a congressman say that Trump is not a legitimate president," he said. "That sends the wrong message to the people who want to see a unified country."

Jim Turner, president of Hilltop Consultants, a Washington, D.C.-based managed service provider whose clients include legal firms, trade associations, and lobbyists, told CRN he would be volunteering to escort VIPs from their busses to the inauguration.

"Whether you love or hate Trump, or love or hate Hillary, I see this as an incredible opportunity to attend the inauguration," Turner said. "After my shift from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. is done, I'm free to enjoy the rest of the activities."

Turner got the opportunity when visiting a friend and client in 2015 who suggested they attend a local Trump rally. "I had been watching both Trump and Clinton, and was interested in hearing what Trump had to say," he said. "So I registered for the rally, and got in his database. Around New Year's Eve, I got an email asking if I would be interested in volunteering. I filled out the application, filled out a security clearance form, and sent in my headshot, and now I'm going."

Turner said he is not a political person and tries to stay independent. "I'm not politically active, except that as president of our homeowner's association I need to sometimes interact with the county government," he said.

Turner hopes that post-inauguration, people, in general, will settle down a bit. "People are either overly worried or overly optimistic," he said. "But things never turn out as people think they will. People are always concerned about new administrations. That makes for easy headlines. So for me, volunteering at the inauguration is an opportunity to see what's happening for myself."

Another person excited about attending the Trump inauguration is Dave Braun, CEO and owner of Nexsyis, an Indianapolis, Ind.-based developer of specialized software for the medical and auto repair industries.

Braun told CRN he got his invite thanks to his wife, Chalene Braun, who was active in the Women For Trump movement in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. "I'd like to say I got the invite because of something I did, but it wasn't," he said. "I like the honor of being there, and am looking forward to the entertainment that follows."

Braun said he is optimistic about the future under the Trump administration. "As a small business owner, I want to see Obamacare repealed and replaced, and a lessening of tax and administration burdens," he said. "I also hope to see the appointment of the right Supreme Court Justice. I want to see a more balanced court. My cohorts and co-workers also want to see a solid immigration policy."

Dave Sobel, senior director of community and field marketing at SolarWinds MSP, an Austin, Texas-based provider of technology to MSPs, told CRN via email that he lives in the Washington D.C. area and has for a couple of days seen the lockdown from the Trump inauguration impacting traffic and life in the city.

"Several friends that work downtown are already planning to work from home – one amusing story is that the garage [one friend] uses will have concrete barricades starting [Wednesday] at 10 p.m., so if she parks there she won't get out until Sunday," he wrote.

With the Friday inauguration and Saturday protest marches, much of the city will be closed until at least Sunday morning, Sobel wrote. "Also of interest – Uber and Lyft have announced they will geofence the closed area, and not do any pickups there on Thursday until it's clear. I'm staying far, far away from the city," he wrote.

Michael Goldstein, CEO of LAN Infotech, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. said he expects the divisiveness in the country to fade with Trump economic policies creating more jobs in America, improving the financial fortunes of businesses and individuals.

"We have to give everything a chance to settle down," said Goldstein. "Everyone took this election so personally. Tomorrow is either a good day or a bad day depending on which side of the political fence you are on. But all political feelings aside, it comes down to dollars and sense. We all have businesses to run or mortgages to pay. I think things are going to get better for the country and all of us. Just like President Obama said at his last press conference, 'We're going to be OK.'"

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