Uber may have a crisis brewing, and it doesn’t have anything to do with regulators, taxi drivers, courts or safety concerns. Instead, this is about presidential politics.
Hillary Clinton today is expected to make a major speech that lays out her economic blueprint for America. According to Politico‘s Mike Grunwald, some of her rhetorical fire will be aimed at sharing/contractor economy companies:
Clinton’s aide said she will discuss some of the structural forces conspiring against sustainable wage growth, such as globalization, automation, and even consumer-friendly ‘sharing economy’ firms like Uber and Airbnb that are creating new relationships between management and labor (and which now employ many Obama administration alumni). But she will argue that policy choices have contributed to the problem, and that she can fix it.
Not too soon after, Grunwald’s Politico colleague Mike Allen wrote that Jeb Bush will take an Uber during a visit later this week to San Francisco:
[Bush will] talk about the importance of innovation and fostering disruptive technology to create high-paying jobs. Bush will argue that this is America’s competitive advantage — we shouldn’t be stifling it to appease entrenched interests. He’ll call that Hillary’s path.
In other words, Uber is on the verge of becoming a proxy for economic policy during a presidential campaign. This is not the sort of thing that has much upside, even if the pro-Uber candidate manages to win.
Uber has plenty of senior execs with influence in Democratic Party circles — including board members ex-Obama advisor David Plouffe and Google chief legal counsel David Drummond — and it would be wise to see if they can help make sure the company doesn’t become part of Hillary’s stump speech. How many times would Hillary have to bash Uber before her supporters in Uber hotbeds like New York and San Francisco begin to download other ride-hailing apps?
Uber has enough challenges without becoming a partisan punching bag.