Greetings from lovely Aspen, Colorado, where I am attending the Aspen Ideas Festival as part of their scholar program. I have no idea how I ended up in this program, as I did not apply for it, and my relationship with the Ideas Festival over the years has been mostly made up of mocking their event subject matter on Twitter (“Rotary: rediscovering the beauty of a phone which expects something of us, as opposed to the reverse” #aspenideas). But I am here nonetheless, ready for the live recording of PodSaveAmerica and the session on whether Robots are the future of Jazz. Already I have had a lovely conversation with a fellow attendee about one particular Aspen Idea: That Mark Zuckerberg would actually be a great candidate for president in 2020.
I am serious. Or at least, they were. But there is an internal logic to it, if you think of the problems plaguing America as being the lack of a leader who balances technocratic globalism with a more attuned sense of voter priorities and West Coast communitarianism. Zuckerberg has been traveling across the country of late meeting with all sorts of communities, making for increasingly odd pictorials of the young tech billionaire chatting with people very much unlike him. But we shouldn’t assess Zuckerberg’s awkwardness as a crippling defect in a field that is likely to be made up of people almost 40 years older than he is. Zuckerberg would enter such a contest with the greatest knowledge of the electorate and analytics of any candidate. (He also comes with his own deep state, and enough blackmail for half the country: “Mr. President, why no nominee for AG yet?” “I dunno, Jim, why do you spend so much time looking at those old pictures of Tammy from Waco?”) Awkward insistence didn’t stop Democrats from nominating Al Gore, and he came a lot closer to winning the presidency than John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. Zuckerberg is Gore as technocratic god, with a self-made mythology to go with it.