This past weekend, following a vigorous Appalachian Trail jaunt in the vicinity of Mt. Katahdin in Maine, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife (celebrating their 5th anniversary!) met with some hard-working local folk of Millinocket, Maine as part of his ongoing “getting to know America” trail ride. We can leave aside for the moment whether at any other time in his life Mark Zuckerberg has either hiked on a trail or spoken with ordinary folk. These questions don’t matter. Because Mark Zuckerberg is running for President!
Mark Zuckerberg denies his sabbatical from the arduous and physically taxing labor required to run Facebook (which also just celebrated its 5th anniversary as a public company) has anything to do with political aspirations. And of course, he’s still a whelp, just having turned 33 years old. But the magic age to serve as president of the United States is 35, and Mark Zuckerberg will be 36 years old in 2020. So, yeah, he’s running. After all, if mental midget Donald Trump, twice his age and twice his girth but half his IQ (and a rounding error fraction of his wealth), can be president, why shouldn’t Mark Zuckerberg?
Actually, “Sexiest Man Alive” Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson and Dallas Mavericks owner (and genial email replier) Mark (“The Cube”) Cuban are also running for president in 2020. Rock, Zuck, and Cube (Rochambeau anyone?) will likely compete with each other for the Democratic nomination, and … Katie bar the door … I can’t wait!
Seriously. Our current political situation sucks. Majorly. The old smoke-filled room institutions girdling American democracy – corrupt party organizations, corrupt legislatures, corrupt urban machines, corrupt fat-cat industrialists and financiers, corrupt labor unions – have all in various ways ungirdled themselves, and Trump’s amazing reality show leap to the top of the heap has made it clear there is no going back to the old days and the old ways.
Technology, inequality, global climate change, the disintermediation of pretty much every institution previously viewed as prerequisite for a robust and healthy civil society and democratic politics – all of these dynamics make it clear we need to reimagine, pretty much from whole cloth, what kind of politics and leadership will work for the Disunited States of America going forward. So, sure, let’s encourage Zuck, Rock, and Cube to run in 2020. What the hell. Let’s require them to run. And let Kanye jump in, too. If we’re going down, let’s do it in style.
But first, let’s further unspool our imaginations. And what’s kind of interesting is that most of the concerns that might arise with a Zuck/Rock/Cube presidency melt away when we even gently probe their foundations (we can leave Kanye aside for the moment – he probably won’t run anyway). Off the top of my head, nine dimensions of presidential performance would likely fistibitulate our minds, regarding whether any of these guys could succeed as president. Let’s consider each in turn.
- Electability – This one is easy. Social media dominance. On this basis, either Zuck (with 90 million Facebook followers) or the Rock (with 58 million Facebook followers) would simply crush Cuban (who has only 1.3 million followers on Facebook). Donald Trump (with 23 million followers), who decapitated Hillary Clinton (only 10 million followers) in the Heartland, also would also not fare well against Zuck and the Rock.
- Experience – Hillary Clinton can tell you that experience – a lengthy resume – these days is a liability. One’s “record” is now a weapon, a list of partisan and personal grievances endlessly nursed, a political suicide note. Also, the organizational collapse of the Democratic party has cut off the supply of young blood needed for generational rejuvenescence. In 2020, Elizabeth Warren will be 71 years old. Hillary Clinton will be 73 years old. Joe Biden will be 78 years old. Bernie Sanders will be 79 years old! That is too much experience! Zuck (36 in 2020), Rock (48 in 2020), Cube (62 in 2020) will each claim the advantages of inexperience and (relative) youth (not unlike John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama when they ran for president), and benefit, conceptually, from the advantages of backwardness (for those who study their Gershenkron) or from the innovator’s dilemma (for those who study their Christensen).
- Leadership – We have learned from Trump’s electoral successes that politics going forward may orient itself around leadership styles that derive popular trust and confidence from wealth, swag, sex appeal, and charisma (clearly in varying combinations), all of which impute to a leader the seductive attributes of celebrity, and vest to this person a vast amount of social capital unavailable to any conventional politician.
- Vision – This is an interesting one. Being dispositionally non-political and non-ideological (and, significantly, non-psychotic), all three of these guys are positioned to present a pragmatic vision – embracing and benefiting society as a whole, and avoiding the toxins of partisan ideology – that could defuse tension, heal divisions, and elevate hope.
- Policies – It is probably time to rescue “technocratic elites” from their recently perfidious “globalist” associations, and to deploy a “technocratically elitist” approach to legislation and regulation that emphasizes prudent, goal-oriented, evidence-based, and ethically balanced policy outcomes. As the extension of a personal (transcendent, non-partisan) leadership style and a pragmatic (needs-based, unifying) vision, the evidence-based (yep, let’s use that term) policy approach can yield outcomes that can help to leach toxins from political debate and secure at least a thin layer of common purpose for the nation.
- Administration – Despite concerns about the personal leadership style of a “celebrity” president, we should remember that the president, and even the White House staff, remain the tip of an executive iceberg that is a great source of stability, continuity, institutional memory, and collective expertise for securing the nation’s basic public needs and goods. While Trump (who governs as the most hidebound and hideous version of a tax-hating, government-hating, bureaucrat-hating businessman) seems bent on eviscerating the executive branch of the federal government, President Zuck/Rock/Cube would presumably be far more likely to appoint and trust authority to a stable of qualified, effective Cabinet and White House officials.
- Execution – A celebrity President lightly steering a robust, results-oriented executive is positioned to work effectively with Congress, no matter which party controls the House and Senate. indeed, the premise of a celebrity President is that party leaders will be in a position, and perhaps under electoral pressure, to neuter their bases and work more effectively with the president, and together, to accomplish goals that are programmatically reasonable and sustainable.
- Potential – It is a truism that no one can prepare to be president. The measure of exceptional presidents is consequently their capacity to evolve and mature in office in response to challenges and crises that no one can anticipate. If we can use Lincoln as our template, the impact of presidential experience, in what surely is (and should be) the loneliest office in the land, will be to both enlarge and humble those who inhabit and internalize its crushing mandates. We can deduce that younger and fresher blood of the Zuck/Rock/Cube variety will be more likely to rise and respond to these unique developmental challenges (recall that Lincoln, 51 years old when elected, had but two years of experience as an elected official)
- Sustainability – President Obama has learned how quickly a presidential legacy can dissolve, absent a robust legislative foundation and absent a deeply rooted and committed party organization. Ironically, our celebrity president, if sufficiently far-sighted, may discover that liberation from existing party shackles (particularly in the case of the woefully inept and fragmented Democratic Party), may create the fresh opportunity to build a revamped political apparatus on freshly cemented foundations.
With no further ado, please cast your vote!