As the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is fabulously rich. By some accounts he is already worth $70 billion and in the last few weeks of the bull market his net worth has been increasing by four billion a day.
What more could a 33-year-old billionaire want than to sit on top of one of America’s most dynamic tech companies? Does he really covet sitting at the top of a dysfunctional national government?
Speculation about Zuckerberg’s political ambitions boiled over this week when he hired Barack Obama’s former pollster, Joel Benenson. Benenson also had a front-row position on the just-completed Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, serving as a strategist.
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Benenson also is not the first political strategist in the Zuckerberg bullpen. Zuckerberg has drafted the former manager of Barack Obama’s campaign, David Plouffe, and the former manager of the George W. Bush campaign, Ken Mehlman.
Zuckerberg by all accounts is a computer programming genius. He was taking graduate courses in computer science at Mercy College, near his parents’ home in Westchester County, New York, while he was still in high school.
In college at Harvard University he became so involved in the creation of Facebook, he dropped out by his sophomore year. His record at Harvard was so muddled, he joked while giving the Harvard commencement address: “If I get through this speech, it’ll be the first time I actually finish something at Harvard.”
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Despite being at the center of growing America’s largest social network, Zuckerberg has been circumspect about sharing his politics. You would expect him to be a liberal Democrat, having grown up in a Jewish family, but he is actually registered in Santa Clara County as “no preference” in political party selection.
He has been outspoken on several issues that merit disclosure. He is a big supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement. In June 2013 he actually climbed aboard a float in the annual parade the movement hosts in San Francisco.
Immigrant rights are also a primary area of Zuckerberg’s focus. In 2013 he formed a non-profit lobby group called FWD.us, the primary purpose of which has been to reform the immigration process. Currently the website front page asks you to call your congressman to protect the rights of “dreamers.” Dreamers are illegal immigrants brought here as children by their illegal-immigrant parents. He has also repeatedly criticized President Donald Trump’s policies toward illegal immigration.
Zuckerberg has been pilloried by critics of illegal immigration because they believe he wants to bring more low-wage programmers from India to the United States to lower Facebook’s cost of labor. Zuckerberg counters that he cannot find enough qualified Americans to fill the high-income, high-tech jobs Facebook needs to fill.
Finally, Zuckerberg has been a big supporter of Islamic communities in the United States. After recent terror attacks by jihadist warriors, he has made public statements in support of Islam. On December 9, 2015 he wrote on Facebook that he wanted “to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world.” He also wrote that Muslims are “always welcome” on Facebook. He clarified by saying that “as a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities.”
Visits to Iowa and other early primary states may not be significant. Hiring a basketful of political consultants may not be important either, but if I were a betting man, my money would be on a Zuckerberg candidacy in the years ahead.
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