Howard Schultz is the Epitome of Privilege
Howard Schultz seems like he's a nice guy. But I don't care.
I'm being serious when I say this – Schultz seems like someone who's generally well-intentioned. I was even more serious when I say that that doesn't matter. A proverb that's almost as old as Schultz states that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. You can have good intentions in your own household, when you take actions that affect you and the people around you. His intent, however, does not hold one iota of importance when he's doing things that have the potential to affect hundreds of millions of people. And I know you're *already* tired of hearing about him, and he hasn't even formally said he's running yet. But instead of simply viewing Schultz as an out-of-touch billionaire (which he is) who probably doesn't know how much a box of cereal costs (he actually doesn't) as he's been characterized so far, let's evaluate just how shitty of a pure candidate he truly is from the small amount of data we have so far.
Schultz seems to lack a basic understanding of cause and effect. He seems to agree that Donald Trump is a bad president, which is probably a good thing. In fact, he says exactly that in almost as many words, writing "Donald Trump is unfit for office and must not be president for four more years." And if he understands that, then it logically follows that he should not run. There is plenty of debate as to whether a third-party candidate would help or hurt Democrats – the 'help' case assumes that Schultz's constituency is economically conservative suburban white people who would rather begrudgingly vote for Trump than a Democrat (and points to how a third-party usually hurts the incumbent), and the 'hurt' case would rather remove any potential complicating factor from what should be a straightforward two-candidate race (and points to the Ross Perot vs. George H.W. Bush example).
You can rationally convince yourself of either point of view, but more importantly, a third-party cannot win. Any delusion that they can speaks to Schultz's paucity of historical understanding. They just can't. It's not possible, especially considering the nature of the electoral college system. No third-party candidate has even carried a state since George Wallace ("segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever") in 1968. Let's all understand that. THEY. CAN. NOT. WIN. There's certainly an argument for a major third party to exist, but without that framework and infrastructure in place, it won't happen. It's hard enough for an independent to be elected to the Senate, let alone a President. Schultz has even said that he only wants to run if he can win, actually using bold 18-point font to emphatically state "I won't run for president unless I think I can win", but his impending entrance into the race shows that he is determined for this quixotic endeavor regardless of his chances.
Also, let's get this out of the way: America isn't at its core a two-party system. Sure, it has two political parties that matter, but that's just the lens through which we filter the fairly varied ideologies we see in politics. We saw this in the 18 candidates in 2015's Republican primary, and will see it again in this Fall's Democratic equivalent. There's a pretty big difference between Marco Rubio and John Kasich, likewise for Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders. Sure, there's a divide between a blue dog Democrat like Joe Manchin and a libertarian like Rand Paul, but it's not by that much (Manchin voted for Kavanaugh and for the border wall-including continuing resolution, while Paul wants justice reform and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants). If people wanted some weird blend that was even more of a vanilla candidate (with whipped cream, please), surely we would actually have more true moderates in office. We end up with two (real) candidates in a general election, but think of it as a layered vote. You pick whoever has the best liberal ideas, and whoever has the best conservative ideas, and then between the two of them. That's it.
Schultz also doesn't seem to be able to assign adequate levels of importance to real issues, which seems like it should be a big deal. He says that the debt is the country's most Venti 'threat' is its debt, which kind of makes sense considering his roots are in business, but also kind of shows why a businessman shouldn't be president. Forget every other threat out there – from foreign military presences to developing nuclear programs to climate change to Ted Cruz's beard – the greatest of them all, to a country with the world's strongest military and economy, is the damn debt.
He claims to be a centrist, which is at best unappealing and at worst pandering. The argument for his candidacy is based on bridging the gap between Democrats and Republicans. Conservatives, by virtue of their name, traditionally hold the mantle of let's-keep-things-the-same, but since Trump have transitioned into 'regressivism', more like let's-go-back-to-how-things-were-before. That's not to say that it's inherently a negative thing (I say, reluctantly), it's just what it is (make America great *again*). Progressives are just the opposite. Splitting the difference between the two gets you… the status quo, a far cry from 'Hope and Change'.
Schultz also doesn't seem capable of basic math, which might be why he's made warm bean-water so expensive. He has criticized Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's idea of a 70% top marginal tax rate for those with annual income greater than $10 million, and Elizabeth Warren's 2% annual tax on those with a net worth exceeding $50 billion. He ripped Kamala Harris' idea to get rid of privatized health insurance. He has said that these ideas don't represent the views of most of the country (which polling definitively disproves), and has called Democrats' stances on both of these issues "un-American" (despite his proclamation that he wants "to unite the country, for us to come together"). Oh, and he wants to cut entitlements, although it's not clear which ones he wants to cut, and it's worth mentioning that Social Security is one of the most popular programs in the country. All of this because they're supposedly radical ideas on par with a border wall, for which the funding is supposedly unfathomable. This is stuff you could do on an Excel spreadsheet! You don't even have to use pivot tables either.
All of this confirms that he's… definitely not a centrist. Forget running in the Democratic primary – if you close your eyes, you really can't tell the difference between Schultz and say, newly-minted homemaker Paul Ryan (and you have to close your eyes, because Paul Ryan is way cuter). He's even invoked the Nixonian term of the "silent majority" that he claims is his constituency (although again, the polling seriously disproves that), and insists that he is a self-made man (which is dumb because he grew up in public housing, and clearly echoes Mitt Romney's "We Built It" narrative). The disingenuous political label is perhaps his greatest flaw – contrast him with someone like John Kasich, who has pretty similar views, but is quite well-regarded and would probably do respectably in a primary challenge. Despite decrying the two-party construct, Schultz plainly falls into one of them. If you squint, he might look like a libertarian, which has an even smaller support base. The Libertarian Party has never gotten anyone elected to Congress, and has capped out at 2% of the popular vote. Hey, but he's for gay rights and gun control, so that makes him cool, right?
Schultz has also a demonstrated inability to form a coherent thought, not yet having spoken in the affirmative for any policy position. His hottest take has been to 'both-sides' everything ("a lack of responsibility from both parties, and I think this is important, both parties”) wrong with the current state of the country. He's barely managed to spit out that we should believe "that science is real" but couldn't even get on board with the bare minimum of a carbon tax. In his 60 Minutes interview, he said “I don’t want to talk in the hypothetical about what I would do if I was president,” which is literally not how it works, you fuck. That's what you do in every job interview, you describe what you your ideas and what you could do if you got the position.
Despite all of this, he's managed to become a big deal, which is obviously because he has privilege oozing from his caffeinated pores. The fact that he can get wall-to-wall press coverage, write op-eds, and get a 60 Minutes spot can solely be attributed to his shitload of money. The fact that he can even seriously posit a third-party run (which is something that candidate-Trump once threatened if he failed to secure the Republican nomination) follows directly from his wealth, which means you have to take his ambitions seriously. He can hammer those on the left for moving too far from the left (laughable when you consider how un-liberal American Democrats are relative to their counterparts in European countries) when the right has actually moved further to the right because he's old guy and surely he's seen it for himself. He manages to dodge serious, tough questioning (which other Democratic hopefuls are already starting to face) that would attack why he believes that universal healthcare is unaffordable or why raising taxes is a bad idea because he can sidestep the primary process entirely, because he's white and therefore his logic is unassailable. And he's *still* considering all because his semi-liberal billionaire businessman friends (who love their money) have created an insulated cocoon through which he could not see his deep-rooted unpopularity, because he still believes that doing well at business means that you can do well at anything in life (at Berkeley's Haas School of Business, we called these people Haasholes).
For someone who claims that shit is broken, he doesn't want to change anything and doesn't have any ideas even if he did. His critiques fall short in light of the biggest Congressional election landslide in decades, and his persistence on the idea of the "silent" majority (for which his only source is that 40% of the country supposedly identifies as independent) is foolish considering that surely this majority would vote for him if he were to enter a primary.
Schultz hasn't come far from thinking that writing 'Race Together' on coffee cups would solve the country's racial inequality, let alone that surrounding his own coffeeshops' restrooms. It's actually a valuable insight into his thinking, that small incremental shows of good faith from your friendly neighborhood billionaire CEO can have a substantive effect on people's lives, a sentiment that only those who view the world from atop an ivory tower would share. Remember Howard, nice guys finish last.