Mark Cuban is best known for killer deals on ABC’s Shark Tank, eye-roll and all, and this year’s been no exception—he shocked fans by making a deal with cocky “frenemy” Kevin O’ Leary (a.k.a. “Mr. Wonderful”). Although fellow guest investor Chris Sacca spars with Cuban on Twitter, he also thinks Cuban will “have a path to run for President.” This pretty much makes up public Mark Cuban: Businessman, provocateur, politico.
Cuban—whose savvy deals include one with a 16 year-old protégé who wants to “reshape the shampoo market,” Bottle Breachers, and a voting app—considers himself an entrepreneur first. This drives everything from business decisions to opinions on politics. This also means he sometimes appears quite politically conservative, and sometimes he doesn’t. The dissonance doesn’t bother him.
For example, while many conservatives have publicly declared Obamacare a disaster, Cuban’s not so quick to jump on that bandwagon. “The most important phrase for conservatives” he told me via text on his app CyberDust, “is the risk never leaves the system. It’s why Obamacare, while far from perfect, is better than what we had from insurance companies. Someone will pay for the uninsured and services they need. The question is how? Either it can be organized and thought-through or haphazard.”
Government Complexity Isn’t That Big a Deal
Cuban says he “hates big government” and thinks there are “too many welfare programs,” but feels genuine responsibility to help those less fortunate. “We as a country have committed to a level of support for everyone. Reagan started the program that said anyone can walk into a hospital and get care. When people can’t get an education or be healthy and get sick all the time who do you think pays for all that? Don’t you think it costs the country money when kids aren’t healthy and can’t learn? Who pays for it?”
One of the reasons conservatives often advocate for lower taxes is to aid small-business owners. Cuban says this mindset glosses over how many entrepreneurs are wired. He said most entrepreneurs possess pure drive coupled with innovation: “When I was broke and starting businesses I never knew what a tax code was. I had no idea what tax rates were. I did know I had no interest in working for others. I would have started a company even if I paid 90% in taxes.”
While regulation does affect businesses somewhat it doesn’t as much as many think, Cuban argued (although his opinion could be due to his billionaire status).
“CEO’s want to get **** you rich–that drives their decision making more than anything,” he texted. “Entrepreneurs approach the world differently–they want to get rich and do so building businesses. When regulation is a huge problem is when administration of licensing and paperwork and complexity of taxes.”
Stop Screaming and Present Solutions
One of the reasons Cuban thinks conservatism as an ideology has become less popular is because politicians aren’t concerned with providing solutions, especially when it comes to helping businesses (he pointed out neither side has hosted “a townhall focused on business”).
“The problem is conservatism is no longer about smart business decisions. It’s about screaming the dogma. The Republicans are a mess because there is no leadership. Everything they all say is about stopping someone. No one is saying ‘here is exactly what I will do about that. Others can’t do it and here’s why my plan will work and how the country will benefit.’ Saying you will undo everything isn’t leadership. There’s plenty to do beyond the things Obama has implemented that could have a huge impact.”
Another thing conservatives need to recognize, and quickly, Cuban says is the social aspect of capitalism, or socio-capitalism. “Look at most product startups these days: They follow the Tom’s [the shoe company] model of being socially responsible and millennial consumers expect that. One key reason Bernie is popular with younger generation is they see socialism as responsible capitalism. I look for a social side for all my product companies now. Consumers expect it.”
Cuban differentiates between socialism and doing good: “I hate socialism. It has no chance of working. But Millennials and Generation ‘Z’ think doing good is part of making money. So a smart consumer recognizes what the market wants.”
How can conservatives fix this? Cuban cites Reagan again. “Given our commitments, we need to figure out what is the most efficient way to deliver the services we promised as a country to our citizens. Conservatism didn’t evolve with the times. It’s trying to conserve a time that is unlike today.”
Mark Cuban on 2016
During another conversation via CyberDust, I asked Cuban about his preferred candidate, now that it’s essentially down to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He said the candidates were “flawed,” but he was “excited to see how it plays out.”
When I asked him, incredulously, acknowledging his generally conservative background, “Are you actually considering Clinton? You can’t possibly!” He shot back, “I can.” I voiced my opinion about Clinton’s less-than-stellar reputation as secretary of State, and he replied, “We aren’t voting for Secretary of State.”
While it’s been no secret Cuban and Trump have a love-hate relationship, Cuban acknowledged one thing Trump might help with: “The GOP needed to get off all the social shit. The Donald might be the one to take them off.” On the other hand, he said there was nothing President Hillary Clinton could do “that would hurt anything I would do.”
Cuban challenged the conservative consensus several times. “Obama did a good job, other than with the FCC and some foreign policy. That doesn’t make him a bad President. No POTUs gets it all right. Which candidate do you think is smarter–[Hillary or Trump]?”
When I turned the question around, he said Hillary was “far smarter” than Trump, although he acknowledged the “e-mail thing is a joke” and that “Hillary and trump are technologically illiterate.”
Mark Cuban for President?
While on Fox Sports Radio “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd, Sacca told Cowherd the presidency is a real possibility for Cuban.
“Cuban has everything that Trump has in terms of the adherence and hanging on his every word. The minute you’re coined as a billionaire in this country everyone just takes everything you say as gospel….Cuban has all of that, but he’s not an idiot.”
So has Cuban been approached to run for president? “I’ve been approached for third party,” he told me Sunday via his app. “I won’t do it.” While Cuban confirmed he has not been asked to run for vice president, he would consider it if he were, “but it’s a long shot.”
At times throughout our conversation, Cuban seemed to voice some conservative viewpoints, and at others he leaned further Left. In an attempt to identify him, I offered him an explanation: “That makes sense for someone in your position, given your billionaire status.”
He corrected me. “I care about what happens to this country. I’m set. It’s not about me.”
“Perhaps you’re more of a moderate Democrat at heart, but someone who supports a token conservative issue here and there,” I also suggested.
“Maybe I think for myself,” he responded. “No labels for me.”
Might be hard to run for vice president without a label—or would it?