Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer and women’s empowerment advocate, could be leaning in too far for some in the Democratic Party’s liberal base, according to a report in Politico.
Rumored to be a top pick for Treasury Secretary in a potential Clinton administration, she is turning heads among many lefties who see her as too corporate and not committed enough to progressive economic ideas.
“She’s a proxy for this growing problem that is the hegemony of five to 10 major Silicon Valley platforms,” David Segal, the head of the liberal group Demand Progress, told Politico.
“There is a sense that Silicon Valley’s becoming the new revolving door for Democrats as Wall Street has become toxic in the wake of the Great Recession,” added Jeff Hauser, an expert at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Leftists have tended to fear the existence of a direct line from the nation’s corporate suites to the government’s top economic posts — a status quo they believe advantages the rich to the detriment of working families.
This is an old issue. When President Barack Obama appointed hotel magnate and billionaire mogul Peeny Pritzker to serve as Commerce Secretary in his second term, progressives recoiled. Similar worries abounded when President Bill Clinton made Robert Rubin, the Wall Street banker, the head of the Treasury Department in the ‘90’s.
But the left has concerns other than her corporate pedigree. As a Harvard undergrad and later in Bill Clinton’s Treasury Department, she worked as a close associate of Rubin’s successor Larry Summers, seen as a leading advocate of corporate deregulation.
Her successful attempts to bring down Facebook’s corporate tax burden have also galled those on the left. Facebook recently moved billions of dollars in assets to Ireland, a country with a lower corporate tax rate than the United States.
“When you look under the hood, there are complicated and potentially very messy issues,” an unnamed Democratic Senate aide told Politico. “How her role at Facebook might color her perspective on tax reform and complicate the atmospherics around her taking a central role on that set of issues raise particularly big questions.”
Sandberg, a mega-donor to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has also proven a controversial figure in left circles due to her book of career advice and women’s empowerment tips, “Lean In.” In the tract, she encourages women to assert themselves in the workplace and climb the company ladder.
“Lean In” has been criticized on the left for not addressing issues of gender equity that impact lower income, minority, or queer women.
bell hooks, a professor at Berea College, wrote in the Feminist Wire that Sandberg’s feminism “begins and ends with the notion that it’s all about gender equality within the existing social system. According to hooks, this leaves intact “the structures of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”
Susan Faludi, a feminist scholar and writer, speculated that “lean in” was a transparent effort to promote Facebook, opining in The Baffler that “female marketers are invoking capitalism to advance their corporate brand of feminism.”
But maybe the left’s fears are overblown — Sandberg claims she has no plans to enter the government. At a conference earlier this month, she promised that she would not be leaving Facebook anytime soon.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.