Inauguration Day, 2020.
The country is about to inaugurate a billionaire outsider as its President. Known for his prickly personality, most of the country is well aware of his dirty laundry. He is new to politics, his rise completely driven by social media.
Get ready, America, for President Mark Zuckerberg, the first president inaugurated before his 40th birthday, and the first president to take office without a college degree since Harry Truman.
At least that's the scenario some Facebook insiders and associates of Zuckerberg imagine--and some of Zuckerberg's recent moves indicate he might be considering a run for President. Last year Facebook's proxy statement made clear Zuckerberg can maintain control of the company while running for office. Zuckerberg also hired President Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, to oversee policy and advocacy for his philanthropic initiatives.
So how crazy is a Zuckerberg candidacy?
In light of recent events, you can't dismiss it. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has forged a new path to the White House, one that doesn't depend on prior political experience or adhering to political party orthodoxy. And while some of youthful Zuckerberg's less admirable traits were on display in The Social Network, it's hard to imagine anything in that movie being a campaign killer, given what Trump managed to survive in 2016.
A big part of Trump's success was the use of a social media platform, and, you know, Zuckerberg owns a social media platform. Like Trump, Zuckerberg could also personally inject financial resources into his campaign.
But Mark Zuckerberg hasn't spent nearly his entirely adult life learning how to court, manipulate, and toy with the media. He doesn't appear to relish the spotlight for the sake of the spotlight, as Trump openly admits he does.
And could Mark Zuckerberg generate the type of enthusiasm Trump did at his rallies? Is there a constituency ready and waiting for a Mark Zuckerberg candidacy?
Maybe--it's hard to tell at this point, and if he's serious about running, Zuckerberg will have to raise his public profile and stake out policy positions that differentiate himself from other candidates. Regardless of what you think of Trump, he did talk about trade and deindustrialization in a way that differentiated himself from both Democrats and Republicans.
What is Mark Zuckerberg's pet issue, and how will he talk about that issue in a way that differentiates himself from typical politicians?
Time will tell.
But the inauguration coming at the end of this week should teach us that we've entered an era where it would be unwise to dismiss anything in politics as impossible, especially the idea of a multi-billionaire running for President who found his path to the White House through social media.