In campaign ads and stump speeches, Blake Masters is playing Trump’s greatest hits. He complains about “wokeness,” talks openly about American decline, and demands that the government finish building the wall on the southern border. But unlike Trump, Masters’ political ambitions reimagine America in the eyes of Silicon Valley and one of its most powerful — and controversial — investors.
On the heels of Trump’s endorsement, Masters is poised to win Tuesday’s primary and become the GOP’s next Senate nominee in Arizona. But his mentor Peter Thiel casts a long shadow over his candidacy and raises the stakes to something much larger than a single Senate seat. Over the last decade, Masters has studied under Thiel at Stanford, led Thiel’s powerful investment firm, and co-authored the pair’s New York Times bestseller Zero to One, a contrarian guide for Silicon Valley startup founders that denounces higher education and encourages monopolization.
Now, that strain of tech libertarianism has launched Masters into a political alliance with Donald Trump. Speaking at an Arizona Trump rally late last month, Masters praised the prior administration and cursed the current president’s actions on inflation and border security.
“Everything’s on fire under Joe Biden,” Masters warned. “Arizona, make me your nominee so we can beat Mark Kelly, put America first, and finish the work that President Trump got started.”
Sen. Mark Kelly, a former NASA astronaut, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination after flipping late GOP Sen. John McCain’s (AZ) seat blue in a 2020 special election. Leveraging his background in science, Kelly has called for more drastic action to tackle climate change while defending federal entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are popular with Arizona’s older population.
In contrast, Masters’ program is relentlessly focused on privatization, putting anything from social security to Arizona’s water resources under corporate control. It’s an approach closely tied to Thiel’s own political pessimism and faith in private interests. As Thiel put it in a 2009 essay, “[t]he fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”
In laying out his platform, Masters seems to be doing his best to take up that mantle, including its lofty language. At his final pre-primary rally, Masters tweeted an image of himself onstage with the brief caption, “Subverting existing paradigms.”
The Thiel connection also helped Masters land Trump’s official endorsement this past June, which has been the greatest single factor in his success. Thiel famously served on Trump’s transition team and has long cultivated the former president as an ally. In the wake of the endorsement, Masters jumped ahead in polls, with his lead growing as high as 15 points, according to FiveThirtyEight on Monday. The numbers have given his campaign enough confidence to rename its Tuesday night election party a “victory” celebration.
While never denying the 2020 results outright, Masters accused Democrats of cheating. He’s already started to cast doubt on the integrity of the midterm elections, suggesting they wouldn’t be “fair,” according to CNN.
Masters has also courted support from the cryptocurrency world, making early moves to accept Bitcoin donations and auctioning off NFTs to support the campaign. In September, he proposed that the US create a strategic reserve of Bitcoin, which he described as “Fort Nakamoto — the new Fort Knox.” In the months since the proposal, Bitcoin has fallen by more than 40 percent.
Masters’ own financial holdings back up that enthusiasm, showing extensive holdings in a wide range of cryptocurrencies. In October, Masters disclosed Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Tezos, and Litecoin totaling millions of dollars, according to financial ethics filings. He had also invested in Urbit star, a decentralized finance project launched by the controversial neo-reactionary Curtis Yarvin.
The current value of Masters’ crypto assets is unclear. His 2022 financial ethics form was originally due May 17th, but he requested an extension making his new deadline August 15th, just weeks after the primary election.
But while his Silicon Valley ties might seem unusual for a GOP candidate, they haven’t stopped Masters from being embraced by the conservative movement’s most prominent kingmakers — most recently in a primetime interview with Tucker Carlson on Monday night. The conversation focused on bread-and-butter Republican issues like inflation and “demented” Democratic spending. “The Democrats in charge have failed,” Masters said. “They’re destroying this country, and then they’ll lie about it.”
At the end of their conversation, Carlson wished Masters good luck and offered something just short of an endorsement. “We are rooting for you, Blake Masters,” he said.