What makes Howard Schultz so dangerous to the American political duopoly
When former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz publicly announced his candidacy for president, both Republicans and Democrats scoffed. The Left told him he would help reelect Trump while the Right (mainly President Trump) told Schultz he didn’t have the guts to run.
These threats illuminate a cynical argument made by both parties: if anyone dares to enter the electoral waters as an independent, we will lose. To many, Schultz is just another billionaire looking to buy the nation’s highest office with his own wealth similar to our current president and one of his most outspoken critics, former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg. To politicos, he’s a threat.
But, Schultz’s candidacy presents the opportunity to effectuate a lasting change in our democracy, much more so than the National Popular Vote movement. His candidacy could be a bastion for independent and third-party candidates, one that could disrupt the duopoly in American politics and usher in an era where lesser-known political parties carry equal weight on election day.
This is because Schultz is willing to think for himself and challenge the ideological status quo of both major parties while other candidates mold their campaigns to exact a preferred response from voters.
As Reason Magazine’s editor Nick Gillespie points out in his article “Who’s Afraid of Howard Schultz?” Schultz’s danger isn’t that he’s running as an independent, but that “ already thinking as an independent.”
During a recent stop on his book tour, Schultz told a crowd at a Barnes & Noble in Seattle that our $21 trillion debt is the greatest threat to our country. Not only does our debt tie the hands of our government because of rising interest rates, but it also prevents us from broad-based economic growth. Typically, this thinking would align him with Republicans. But, those who lean right have shown that government spending is fine so long as it goes toward the military, or trying to build a wall on the southern border. And that spending is somehow justified by tax cuts that will decrease federal revenue by over $2.3 trillion in the next decade.
The Democratic side of the spectrum tends to critique Schultz’s class status and occupation as a businessperson rather than his ideas. Schultz takes umbrage with this fact and uses it to show how far left the Democrats have gone.
An editorial by Michelle Goldberg at the New York Times decries Schultz’s candidacy as “a danger” because “the reality-distorting effects of being a billionaire will warp his judgment, convincing him that his business acumen is transferable to the realm of politics.”
Goldberg is making an argument based on what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would call “moral rightness over factual rightness”. Her argument assumes that because someone is not born and bred as a politico, therefore they do not have the acumen to enter the political realm and be effectual. Such an argument is latent with classism and, worst of all, an archaic view of today’s political realm.
To say that Schultz’s business acumen is insufficient to become president is to equate him to Donald Trump, a man who has bragged about “brilliantly” using bankruptcy laws to remove debts from his business’ balance sheet.
But, this equivocation falls far short of its intended purpose — to dissuade voters from electing another member of the business class to the nation’s highest office. Starbucks is in a league that Trump’s businesses can’t touch. Where Trump is a pariah of domestic lenders because of his reckless approach to money management, Starbucks “ is an extremely well-managed cash flow machine with access to cheap rates due to the solid stability of its balance sheet,” according to Investopedia. This sort of well-reasoned money management is something that America desperately needs in Washington.
There is a common strain of thought on the Left that billionaires are bad people. AOC made this same argument at an event where she called them “immoral.” Other representatives like Ilhan Omar have made similar arguments, though the common thread of reasoning is that the wealthy need to pay more in taxes. But, this sort of group-think ideology is what has driven the political divisions to the extremes that we see today.
This political extremism rears its ugly head when Democrats talk about taxing wealthy Americans at 70, 80 or 90 percent rates while talking about tax-funded entitlements like Medicare For All which are unaffordable. Schultz describes this as “class warfare,” that is un-American and doesn’t fit well with a party that wants to represent the people, generally.
Schultz is trying to avoid being forced to accept positions and truisms promoted by both major parties and has shown willingness to criticize them equally. That’s why Gillespie rightly says he is “thinking like an independent.” This sort of “dangerous” thinking is exactly what American politics needs, not more party-line demagoguery.