“Why don’t people ever tell billionaires that want to run for President that they need to ‘work their way up’ or that ‘maybe they should start with city council first’?”–Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
It seems everyone and their grandmother is running for president next year, especially on the Democratic side. It’s understandable. With President Trump having poor approval ratings and a majority of voters saying (for now at least) that they will not vote for him, it’s not surprising that sharks are in the water.
There is, however, one kind of candidate I could simply do without: the billionaires.
Perhaps it is Trump’s success that helps bring this about. As an alleged billionaire and entertainer with a sordid history, he has proven that you don’t need government experience to win the White House.
If Trump’s time in office has shown us anything, it is that perhaps some government experience would be a good idea if you want to actually lead the government. No human being on earth is ever ready for the office of President of the United States, but it’s definitely not a starter job.
It probably isn’t Trump that has provided the example. After all, I remember way back in the 1990s when Ross Perot ran twice for president on no credentials other than his wealth. In the first run in 1992, he got quite a few votes and might even have made the difference in who won the electoral college. (Political scientists are divided as to whether his presence in the race helped Clinton win or just prevented him from having a majority in the popular vote). I remember wondering why Perot was worthy of so much media attention, simply for having a lot of money.
This time around, there is a wealth–no pun intended–of potential billionaire candidates. Some have pondered the idea and ruled themselves out, while others seem to be itching for the chance.
Last year, rumors flew that Oprah Winfrey might take a shot. As the leader of a global media empire with a loyal following, it was easy to imagine. However, Winfrey has already said “no” to the idea.
Rumors also flew nearly two years ago that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might run, some speculating that his “listening tour” was a precursor to a campaign. More recently, he seems to have cooled to the idea and voters have likely cooled to him as more information has emerged regarding Facebook’s record on privacy and its poor record in clamping down on misinformation during the 2016 race.
Michael Bloomberg considered a run in 2016 before declining because polling data and advisors told him that though his presence as an independent in the race would have the effect of electing the candidate he most disliked, Mr. Trump. Bloomberg has the advantage of having some political experience, as the former mayor of New York and he has been a Republican, Democrat, and independent during his career. Should he choose to run, it would likely be in the Democratic primary.
Bloomberg has competition from another billionaire, however: former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who appears the most serious choice among the uber-wealthy. Bloomberg and others have criticized Schultz for his hubris and naiveté, with many believing that he would draw enough votes to give Trump a second term.
Hubris is likely a character trait of most billionaires, but there seems to be another motivating factor, self-interest. As Republicans have moved to the right, Democrats are now moving to the left, with some party leaders suggesting that we return to the tax policies of a few decades ago when the wealthy paid higher rates.
Though these policies have majority support among the people, these billionaires and many in the media claim that they are unrealistic, despite the fact that our nation’s middle class was built on them.
This may be the real dividing line, especially for Schultz. For him, the prospect of a Democratic win may seem a bigger risk than a second Trump term as it could have the effect of turning him from an insanely rich person to a slightly less insanely rich person.
For Democrats though, the very idea that billionaires are being seriously considered is disappointing. We know that money has a huge and corrupting influence on politics, but if we are to give up on the idea that anyone not already massively wealthy will attain the highest office, where does that leave us?
My advice is to ignore the billionaires and vote for the person with the experience and temperament for the job.