Regardless of where you position yourself on the political spectrum, it is inarguable that Donald Trump being voted president of the United States is a strange turn of events. Although our never-ending plummet into celebrity infatuation should have indicated that this would happen a long time ago, we’re now living in a time when a reality TV star can be democratically elected into the most powerful job in the world. If you’d have predicted this turn of events just a few years ago, you would have been laughed out of whatever room you were standing in, yet here we are.
With that being said, many are now growing increasingly suspicious that Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is preparing to embark upon his own venture into politics, with him potentially lining up an opportunity at the next presidential election. In a pre-Trump world these claims would have also been scoffed at, but there have now been a number of signs pointing towards a Zuckerberg political run becoming a possibility.
Zuckerberg is currently embarking upon a US tour of sorts, with the tech entrepreneur looking to visit people in every state in the US. He’s already visited around 20 states, shaking hands and kissing babies in a manner that’s comparable to presidential candidate, not the owner of a social networking website. While this could be perceived as Zuckerberg attempting to create healthy PR for Facebook, he made more headlines over the course of 2016 for his work away from his company, becoming more of a public presence in the process.
First there was his grand statement to invest $3 billion into charitable efforts by way of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, an organization set up between the billionaire and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The duo’s plan is to ostensibly “cure all disease,” though their investments thus far have largely revolved around donations into the tech sector in order to train the under-privileged. Their first investment was placed in Andela, which trains talented tech workers in Africa and selects the top 1% for careers in the engineering industry. With the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative also being listed as a limited liability company rather than a charity organization, this means that they are legally entitled to recoup profits from business investments, along with making political donations with the company’s earnings.
Then there have been Zuckerberg’s efforts to raise his own public profile towards the tail-end of the year, with him increasing his popularity by way of commercials for his home AI system ‘Jarvis,’ which boasted the celebrity backing of Morgan Freeman. That’s not to mention his copious amounts of Facebook Live videos, which have been used to advertise the popular new feature but have also served to bring more eyes to Zuckerberg himself, offering a candid look at his life and family. He even filmed his daughter’s first steps and uploaded them to Facebook for all to see.
As WIRED points out, Zuckerberg has already made moves to permit himself to remain in control of Facebook should he take an extended leave of absence. After restructuring the company’s stock during an annual meeting back in June, a note in the new rulings stated that Zuckerberg would still retain voting control over Facebook if he left to work for the government. These rulings state that Zuckerberg only needs to retain 30% of Facebook’s shares in order to do so, and if he doesn’t own these shares then he only requires the board’s approval. In other words, he has a lot of leverage to go and fulfill any political ambitions he might harbor, while still rolling in the cash.
All of this does seem to leave the door wide open for a stint in politics, but it’s still highly debatable that this would be the case. For one, Zuckerberg has never shown any political aspirations — though this could be a result of the minimum age required to run for office being 35 years old — and all of these strong PR moves could be attributed to him attempting to promote Facebook, rather than himself. However, we’ve certainly seen stranger things happen in recent years, and Facebook’s own purported contributions to the outcome of the last presidential election could have sent alarm bells ringing in Zuckerberg’s head. If these rumors are true, could the US see the election of two billionaire presidents in a row?