Mark Cuban, Shark Tank billionaire, investor in 150 companies, impresario, and dedicated tech-aficionado, hates it when people tell him he toes an ideological line. Sometimes he just laughs, sometimes he rolls his eyes—and he almost always corrects that assertion. “I think for myself!” he told Tucker Carlson last week while on his show. “I’m not a liberal.” The way Cuban processes politics, personal interests, and personalities of political candidates is not unlike a swath of Americans on both sides of the political aisle.
This is the kind of view many Americans held when they elected Donald Trump for president, and likely still do. The difference between them and Mark Cuban is that they’re still happy with the president. The maverick Mavericks owner, and many who think like him, aren’t, never were, and likely never will be.
On CNN’s New Day last Friday, Cuban told anchors Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota about a conversation with a friend of his, who described Trump as “political chemotherapy,” a poisonous cure to an ailing political culture. His friend voted for Trump hoping “he would change the political system” much like chemotherapy changes cancer. Cuban said, “If that’s the way you’re evaluating Donald Trump, he’s doing a phenomenal job.”
I asked Cuban Friday, via his Cyberdust app, about the “political chemotherapy” comment that made several headlines. He corrected this. “I didn’t say I agreed with the political chemotherapy idea,” he told me. “Rather that people voted for him to be disruptive. People voted for him knowing the cure was as bad as the disease.”
Indeed, on New Day, Cuban gave Trump a C- for his first 100 days, citing his signing a bevy of “executive orders he didn’t understand” and failing to pass a health care bill to replace the ACA legislation, a signature promise of the Trump campaign. Gallup reports Trump’s job approval in his first quarter is, at 41 percent, the lowest of any modern president by 14 points.
Yet, like the mass of Americans who cast their ballot for Trump, Cuban holds many ideas that conservatives traditionally embrace. “Conservatism for economics is fine. Taxes and smaller government can still do well,” Cuban told me, with one caveat—the elephant in the room: “Unless they pass Trumpcare. If that happens they [Republicans] lose in 2018.” Cuban, unlike most conservatives, believes some kind of socialized medicine should be implemented, though he admits Obamacare is flawed and needs to be fixed. He shared his own ideas for correcting the system on his blog.
Still, Cuban is a fan of Ayn Rand’s economic philosophies, can’t stand the SEC, and thinks the best government is a small, efficient government that stays out of an entrepreneur’s way (for the most part). So why didn’t he shill for Trump? Why did he show up to one of the presidential debates as a guest of Hillary Clinton to the chagrin of conservatives everywhere?
It all came down to personality and qualifications. “Trump is an idiot,” Cuban told me, and it’s not the first time he’s told me that. Despite Cuban’s business interests that drive strains of conservative thinking, he still lobbied for Clinton because he believed “she would make the better president.” Cuban repeated, “[Trump] is an idiot. I’ll support a ham sandwich over an idiot.” I pushed back and reminded Cuban in terms of business and investments, Clinton advocated for policies that would increase regulations and taxes—two things he hates.
Cuban responded, “I can fight attempts to regulate. I can lobby whatever. I can’t fight stupidity. I can’t stop a moron that didn’t think it prudent to read about the relationship between China and the DPRK. Or might drop bombs that causes a war because it was harder to figure out than he thought. We can change tax law. We can’t change stupid.”
Like many Americans, Cuban isn’t all Democrat or all Republican—he cherry-picks from both sides of the political aisle. And like Cuban, a swath of voters thought Clinton the better candidate. Unlike him, another swath of voters thought Trump would make an ideal leader of a movement for which disgusted voters have long yearned, not despite his lack of qualifications but because of them.
As Cuban said on New Day, “Some people say [Trump] started a movement; I think the movement found him.” This explains why Trump won more Democratic counties than anyone predicted, because they were tired of voting for politicians who do the same thing repeatedly. They, too, seem to believe there’s a disease in this country and Trump might be the cure—whether holistic or poisonous, that remains to be seen.
While this dichotomy in Cuban is unpredictable and even disheartening for conservatives who agree with so many of his Randian ideas, Cuban isn’t a traitor because he never swore allegiance to conservatism in the first place. Like many Americans today, Cuban doesn’t have a deep political ideology that guides him—just sharp observations, pragmatic solutions, and a laser-focus on business, the economy, and investing. When conservatives—and liberals—hear him advocate for smaller, more efficient, government, declaim against the SEC and lobby for fewer regulations, they hope for a deeper ideology that drives those ideas. But that is his ideology. Everything else is extraneous.
Many Americans think the same way, which is, as Twitter likes to say, “How we got Trump.” Will he be as “disruptive” as voters on both sides of the political aisle hoped? His voters likely think he is but Cuban remains nonplussed: “I don’t think he has been.” If that’s the case, it’s hard to see a scenario where the billionaire on Shark Tank who has long sparred with the billionaire in the White House becomes satisfied with what Trump does in office. Unless of course Trump starts to fix stupid.