Aside from the general distaste of all things Silicon Valley left over from my few years living in the East Bay, what concerns me most about a Zuckerberg presidential run is not just his total lack of qualifications — it is the ease with which I can imagine him garnering significant portions of the millennial vote.
I worry about how many write-in presidential votes there really were for Harambe, and all of our other generational garbage. If Zuckerberg really were to run, his target would probably be voters under 35, and his slant, far-left. Imagine this: a young, dopey Sen. Bernie Sanders without the 30 years of congressional experience, but all the fanfare of the American college campus. In an era in which a reality TV star just became the president of the United States, I fear that if we start giving unintentional, subconscious credence to these poor political jokes we resurrect again and again (the Rock 2020, for instance), we will grow into a generation that thinks it is permissible for deeply underqualified, apolitical figures to be president simply because they are famous. This phenomenon coupled with the recent anti-establishment sentiment among the young, naive and uneducated could hammer a deep nail into the coffin of our tangible political future.
College students, and young people in general, really do need to get a little bit more elitist about who they choose to support. There’s a difference between “establishment” and “qualified” — and we need to start paying much more attention to the latter, rather than simply waiting to judge whether we think they’re old and boring or not. Of course, “old and boring” is how a spry and charming Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush; it is also how John F. Kennedy framed Richard Nixon, borrowing Kim Jong Un’s wonderful word, as a dotard. But there is a difference between a young governor or senator, and a shrewd media mogul who goes to work in beat-up flip flops. But if you slept through your high school civics course and the Bernie 2016 parade gave you the notion that our national political woes can be summed up with a shrill whine of “Establishment!”, then sure: Elect our first Flip Flop President.
For a generation with so much on the line (job prospects, student debt, health care), we are remarkably out of tune with the more distasteful political realities. If you are expecting the feel-good honorific politics of Jackie, look elsewhere. Learning to participate in our national political system is also about learning how to accept pragmatism, argue forcefully and elect leaders who have the sufficient background to run the country — not the candidate who makes you feel good about them.
David Brooks recently wrote in The New York Times that Donald Trump was elected as a “cultural” president, not as an instrument of governance. Thank you, David, for the breakthrough realization that Trump was elected on valence and intangible aspects of leadership. The problem with that narrative is that Trump, cultural president or not, had to turn around on Jan. 20 and be a real president — one that takes security briefings, one that reads, reviews and monitors legislation, one that appoints capable cabinet members and federal officials, one that pays attention to the everyday needs of all Americans and one who attends to the fallout of natural disasters. He has done none of these things; it seems his only “cultural” breakthrough was reinviting Nazism into modern political discourse.
Make no mistake — liberals and progressives can elect a Trump, too, but one that caters to our “cultural” agenda instead of that of the right. As the time comes that future presidential hopefuls will begin softly fundraising and working, and whisperings emerge, remember: As we have learned from the Trump administration, competence and experience are key. Let’s not make this mistake twice, and especially not for a liberal businessman equally as flashy and just as unprepared.
Lily Vaughan is a junior majoring in history and political science. Her column,“Playing Politics,” runs Fridays.