As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg becomes increasingly more active in public life, so too does the speculation that he will someday run for president. But the conjecture from a number of people and media outlets are shortsighted and fail to consider a number of key points, including the most important one: leading a tech company has become a sport for political grandstanding.
Conjecture from media outlets that he is running for president has surged in recent months as Zuckerberg continues to preach his views on the benefits of cultivating a tight-knight global society. He’s also been embarking on a cross-country tour, visiting some parts of the country — like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio — where a good political campaigner would and should go.
A number of factors, however, support the argument that Zuckerberg is not going to run, such as: potentially decreased chances of winning the election due to his relatively young age, the probability that he could help fulfill his larger societal goals effectively while remaining CEO of Facebook and head of his nonprofit, the inevitable business obstacles when transferring from the private to public sphere, and his apparent happiness for where he is now.
Zuckerberg, for one, is probably focused on ensuring that his goals for an interconnected “global community” come to fruition than running for president. If he is running (or aspiring) for anything, it’s more likely to procure a persona of a tech tycoon who cares, in order to protect his business interests.
“When Zuckerberg does his trips around the country, he is kind of acting like a presidential candidate, but it might be that both he and presidential candidates are acting as a third thing: would-be leaders of a massive constituency,” Joe Kane, tech policy associate at the think tank R Street, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Zuckerberg’s constituency is current or potential Facebook users [which amounts to billions]; presidents’ constituencies are the people in the country. And because Facebook is so big, there’s a lot of overlap in people and, thus, overlap in the behavior of the ‘campaigner.'”
The interstate stumping could conceivably be a tour to gather goodwill, as both sides of the political spectrum ramp up their critiques of the company as too powerful.
“The current spotlight is casting a big shadow on Facebook and Silicon Valley more broadly,” Ryan Hagemann, director of technology policy at the think tank the Niskanen Center, told TheDCNF, while adding that he thinks much of the criticism is unfair. “With the ongoing investigations into Russian election meddling, he’s likely more focused on revitalizing the company’s public image.”
Nevertheless, publication after publication interpreted the travel — which, in fairness, started before a lot of the most recent bipartisan skepticism of the tech industry — as a good (or sure) sign that the tech wunderkind would soon be running for president. After all, a businessman with no experience in public office ascending to the presidency now had precedence with the political advent of Donald Trump.
It’s not just the media that’s buying into the hype. PredictIt, a prediction market where people can place bets on who they think will become the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020, among other races, has Zuckerberg as the eighth most likely to attain the nomination. He’s just ahead of Tim Kaine, Virginia senator and former running mate to then-2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
But betting on Zuckerberg, 36, is not advisable. He is probably not going to run for president in 2020, when he will be just barely above the constitutional age parameters, or anytime thereafter.
“Teddy Roosevelt was 42 when he became president after [William] McKinley was assassinated, and [John F.] Kennedy was, at 43, the youngest to ever be elected president. Youth is often seen as a detriment in the presidency, and even politicians who gained the presidency had to overcome some perceptions of youth,” said Daniel Ponder, an expert on the U.S. presidency and professor of political science at Drury University, a small liberal arts college in Missouri. “To be sure, MZ is an astonishingly accomplished entrepreneur, so that’s certainly some points in his favor, but overall youth is a formidable obstacle. Obviously in 2024 or 2028 that would not be as big a deal.”
Age, however, is just one of the several aspects that should be considered when deciding to run for president.
Zuckerberg clearly cares about a number of issues, whether it’s for personal moral reasons or business concerns, including relaxed immigration and globalism, and he can continue to effectively push these ideals without obtaining the highest political bully pulpit. While he may not be able to directly initiate change through legislative processes, like executive orders or political dealmaking, Zuckerberg can still catalyze the implementation of policies with public advocacy, as he leads a social media platform with 2 billion average monthly users and has billions in his personal coffers. And if there is a pool of candidates in the Democratic primary that for the most part represent his views, there would be little need to run.
But then why did he hire Joel Benenson, former top adviser to President Barack Obama and chief strategist for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, or a former personal photographer for Obama and George W. Bush, which many viewed as another sign of his political appetite? Presumably for the eponymous philanthropy the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which has been endowed with billions from Facebook’s fortune and for what the two former federal employees were directly employed. Zuckerberg has for awhile planned on vamping up his charity’s initiatives, announcing in Dec. 2015 in a open letter to his then-newborn daughter that he will give 99 percent of his Facebook shares, valued at roughly $45 billion, to various causes. (RELATED: Despite Regularly Giving Away Money, Zuckerberg Adds Around $9 Billion To Net Worth Every Year)
None of this even touches upon the business complications that would ensue if he ended up winning the election. Much like Trump has been entangled in allegations of improper dealings related to his private businesses, Zuckerberg would too. Unless, of course, he was somehow able to smoothly satisfy all of the legal stipulations and separate himself from any of his many undertakings and enterprises, including Facebook itself.
There’s also the question of whether Zuckerberg would even want to enter the sphere of politics as an official member. He is certainly already on the receiving end of condemnation and derision, much like candidates and presidents are. But adding an average of nearly $9 billion to his net worth every year since Facebook officially went public, while also doing what he appears to genuinely love, why would he change course? (RELATED: Zuckerberg Has Made More Than $20 Billion In Just The Last Year)
He’s got too much to lose from throwing his hat in the ring, which is centered in a messy arena of politics, and has so much to gain by maintaining his position as the leader and face of Facebook.
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