Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg is inciting speculation that he is planning to run for president in 2020. Part of this speculation has stemmed from the political establishment’s obsession with finding a “nice” billionaire to counter Donald Trump.
In December 2016, Zuckerberg renounced his atheism saying, “Religion is very important.” His tour around the country resembles a political campaign rife with awkward public relations stunts to try to convey that Zuckerberg can relate to average people. President Barack Obama’s former photographer is traveling with him on the tour to take photos of him in action.
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I spent the afternoon with the Gant family on their farm in Blanchardville, Wisconsin. Today was a bunch of firsts for me: first time feeding a calf, first time trying unpasteurized milk straight from a cow, first time driving a 70-year old tractor. Thanks to the Gants for being such gracious hosts.
He recently hired former Hillary Clinton adviser Joel Benenson, which incited further speculation that he is gearing up for a presidential bid. Though Benenson is reportedly working on Zuckerberg’s philanthropic endeavors, bringing him on as an adviser distances progressives from Zuckerberg. Benenson claimed during the primaries that Sen. Bernie Sanders ran the “most negative” primary campaign in history—even though Sanders didn’t run a single attack ad—and said that Sanders needed to change his tone if Clinton was going to agree to more debates. Benenson ran one of the worst marketing campaigns in history for Olestra, a fat substitute with a variety of dangerous side effects. Zuckerberg has also hired former Obama Campaign Chair David Plouffe.
Earlier this year, Facebook announced that Zuckerberg could still run the company while serving in government. Though Zuckerberg has denied that he plans to run for president, his actions over the past few months have said otherwise.
The increasing power he yields through Facebook is alarming, making his political ambitions even more so. With an estimated net worth of $70.5 billion, Zuckerberg is the fifth richest person in the world. His wealth has grown as Facebook’s imprint on the world has increased. The company has received a free pass when it comes to anti-trust laws, such as when it purchased WhatsApp without regulators blinking an eye. In the wake of the fake news controversy of the 2016 election, Facebook is becoming an arbiter of censorship of published content and information based on nothing but its own judgment.
At a time of gross wealth inequality, the last thing the world needs is another billionaire as president. However, establishment forces are hoping to cure voters apathy to politics by finding a more palatable billionaire to run the country.
Zuckerberg has made headlines for negative press. Earlier this year, three companies he owns filed a lawsuit against more than 300 Native Hawaiians with ancestral rights to land surrounding his Hawaii home so that he can make his home more secluded by kicking out the natives who live nearby. Facebook’s cafeteria workers have recently begun advocating for higher wages because their low pay is not enough to afford living in Silicon Valley. The Guardian recently interviewed and profiled a couple who work in Facebook’s cafeteria and live in a two-door car garage while struggling to make ends meet. In 2016, the government of Uganda ordered 63 private schools funded by Zuckerberg and Bill Gates to be shut down for falling below standards. Like Gates, Zuckerberg has pushed a pro-charter school agenda and funded the privatization of schools in line with Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ philosophy on education.
Facebook has immense power over the daily lives of Americans. It remains to be seen whether Zuckerberg’s public relations efforts are geared toward a political run or solely meant to boost Facebook’s brand. Either way, it is wrong to believe that the correct antidote to Trump is an even more powerful billionaire.