Billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said this week that he’s thinking about running for President in 2020 as a Republican, not as a Democrat. This presents a problem, as Cuban’s most recent remarks about the topic of running portray a naiveté that should keep him from being taken seriously as a candidate altogether.
This would not be the first time Cuban has made ill-considered statements concerning the political sphere. In 2015, he wrote in a message to his followers on his Cyber Dust app that he would “prefer” to be a Republican, but he didn’t believe the party could survive with its dogmatic base. “Leaders are not dogmatic,” he wrote. “They are principled and know that change is never easy, but when it’s necessary, they must lead. The Republican Party does everything possible to discourage leadership.” However reasonable this may sound, Cuban added that the same message applied to Democrats, but that “[he didn’t] want to be a Democrat,” because you can’t say anything bad about the Republican Party without mentioning “both sides do it.”
Just as ill-considered were his remarks made later in 2015, when he praised the Tweeter-in-chief, calling his campaign “the best thing to happen to politics in a long time” because “he says what’s on his mind.” Not surprising for a man who has built his brand in part on his brash, impetuous nature (a brand he willingly made fun of when he appeared as himself on The Simpsons). Fortunately, sanity prevailed as Cuban threw his support to Hillary Clinton, defending her from charges made against her foundation and even going to the first debate she held against Trump.
But these two comments are not why Cuban misunderstands the political environment in the United States. Rather, it is this one, slipped into a New York Daily News piece, which explains why he believes he can run as a Republican appealing to all sides:
“I think there’s a place for someone who’s socially a centrist but…very fiscally conservative.”
That’s the ballgame right there: this belief that you can be a social liberal and an economic conservative. It’s one of those “zombie lies,” as Bill Maher dubbed them, that should have died with the dinosaurs but keeps coming back to infect our discourse. It’s one of those phrases that you think makes you sound like a reasonable person, and is one I remember hearing people in college use to describe themselves and their beliefs. The problem is they don’t square together at all. Social liberalism can only be bolstered by economic liberalism, and if you don’t believe me, read this article from Raw Story two years ago which lays out why the two cannot be separated. If Mark Cuban wants to run for President, I encourage him to read it and think about the following points it raises:
If poverty, which disproportionately affects people of color more than whites, can only be mitigated by social programs that are funded by higher taxes, then what, Mr. Cuban, do you propose to help people currently growing up in conditions equivalent or worse than the conditions you came from?
If poor people have a harder time getting out of abusive relationships and harmful work environments, then what, Mr. Cuban, do you propose to help women, trans people and POC escape from environments with abusive spouses or bosses? With everything we are learning about Harvey Weinstein and his ilk, we should have some kind of escape valve for those affected by monsters like him, no?
If, given what we know about how voter suppression in the last election tipped Democratic-leaning states to Donald Trump, then what, Mr. Cuban, do you propose to keep other billionaires like Robert Mercer and the Koch Brothers from throwing their support behind candidates who have taken away the voting rights of POC across the nation?
If policemen fine African-Americans in excess of what they can pay and use that money to fund city programs, then what, Mr. Cuban, would you say that could justify lowering taxes for the rich in the wake of the economic racism that plagues the small-town Americans that the media wrote so much about in the last election?
If the war on drugs has had no effect other than to create a robust prison-industrial complex, and you’ve supported decriminalizing marijuana in the past, then how, Mr. Cuban, would you help those released prisoners to escape their lowly economic station if, by cutting taxes for the rich, you’ve already weakened the social safety net that, if it were stronger, might have kept them from going to prison in the first place?
If you believe that the best way to make the economy stronger is through corporate tax deduction, then how, Mr. Cuban, would you take measures to prevent another financial collapse like the one we had in 2008, or, if another financial collapse occurred under your watch, take responsible measures to aid those most affected in its fallout?
And lastly, as we learn more about the damaging effects free trade has had on the American working class, would you, Mark Cuban, live up to your word in the 2016 election when you denounced the hastiness of Trump’s proposed free trade policies and negotiations with Mexico? Would you ensure that there weren’t more fiascos like Trump’s with the Carrier Air Conditioner Plant? And if you believe that manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back, then how would you deal with the upcoming robot revolution that threatens to throw many more working class Americans out of their jobs? Would you, for one, welcome our new metal overlords?
None of this is to suggest that Mark Cuban is a bad person, or an evil person. He is just a misguided one, and we do not need more of those in politics. Whoever the next President is, they will have to provide a massive clean-up crew to undo the damage that Donald Trump and his cronies have done, and it will be in our best interest to elect someone with an innate understanding of the system, and the ability to play a long game. Finding someone with one of those things will be hard enough. And if Mark Cuban believes that you can be fiscally conservative and socially liberal at the same time, then it seems likely that he does not understand what it means to be either of them.
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