Holy Frap: Schultz 2020?

Jonathan Tenenbaum, Staff Writer

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If you’re an American, chances are, you know Starbucks. You know the purveyor of coffee and beverages alike in corny Italian-titled sizes. You know the Seattle-born hipster breeding ground, the paper cups plastered with green circles of sirens, and the outrageously named drinks. You know and maybe even have grown to love the frappuccinos and toasted pastries. You know the crowds lining up to order their triple, venti, half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato, or whatever ultra-specific order they may force upon their hopeless barista. However, you may not know that recently resigned Starbucks CEO and self-made billionaire Howard Schultz has announced his candidacy in the 2020 election….as an independent.

The man behind the green circle cup, Howard Schultz, has been mulling a presidential run for nearly a year, but recently, in a series of videos and interviews, made very clear his desire to run. However, contrary to the reputably liberal Starbucks, Howard Schultz is running as an independent centrist, a decision which has been meet with overwhelming waves of criticism, especially from liberals. This is largely due to the possible threat Schultz poses to swing states, the potential of stealing Democratic votes and aiding in Trump’s somewhat terrifying repeat victory. I mean, it makes sense. Sure, historically, independent parties have had little effect on the outcome of elections, but the profound effect independents have had on swing states explains the backlash. Liberals are having clear flashbacks to Jill Stein votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In Hillary Clinton’s book, What Happened, she said Stein “wouldn’t be worth mentioning” if not for these votes which allowed Trump to stash more electoral college points under his MAGA-red belt.

The intense backlash against his centrist candidacy hit all-time highs with CNN’s holding of a town hall for Howard Schultz. Some of the critiques are brutal and some of it is honestly just flat-out false and unfair. Makeup artist and singer Lisa Armstrong tweeted, “Why is @CNN hosting a town hall for #HowardSchultz? This giving air time to rich folks who think it might be fun to run for president thing is how we ended up with #Trump. #media #fail.” Look, by no means am I a completely convinced Schultz supporter, for reasons which I will discuss later, but the entirety of the attacks upon Howard Schultz, other than his independence posing a risk to liberal victory, are basically summed up in Armstrong’s tweet and almost all of them are misinformed. First of all, these criticisms imply that Schultz’s wealth precludes him from running. This notion is absolutely incorrect. Is it true that his affluence invites some media attention in his decision for candidacy? Of course, but this isn’t necessarily wrong; just because Trump was wealthy doesn’t mean all wealthy candidates should be condemned to an eternity of devaluation and disregard. If someone is wealthy and well-known and announces his decision to begin, for example, a music career, he will naturally get more attention than Joe Schmoe making the same decision. It’s how anything works: affluence and influence receive attention. Not to mention, unlike Trump, Schultz’s wealth isn’t largely inherited but rather hard-earned. Coming from humble beginnings in a hostile family environment in the projects of Brooklyn, Schultz is a self-made billionaire.

Film producer Ben Shapiro tweeted, “(Howard Schultz is polling at 4%. His book fell out of the top 100.) BREAKING: CNN will hold a town hall for a candidate no one wants, who just wrote a book no one is reading.” This tweet addresses two more repeatedly argued points against Schultz. First, regarding Schultz’s book, From the Ground Up: My Journey to Reimagine the Role of a Global Business, I don’t really have much to say. Promoting a book mid-campaign probably isn’t the greatest idea, but several candidates and presidents have promoted their products or writing, and the performance of the book should not be factored into the ridicule of Schultz. He deserves to be taken seriously regardless of the performance of his—I’ll admit, cheesy-sounding—book. Second, his current approval rate. How would anybody gain a greater approval rating without exposure? This criticism is not only foolish but an attempt to deny the political powerhouse Schultz could pose with the right set of steps and decisions.

Even Trump had something to say about Schultz’s 60 Minutes interview, tweeting, “Howard Schultz doesn’t have the ‘guts’ to run for President!”  He went on to say, “Watched him on @60Minutes last night and I agree with him that he is not the ‘smartest person.’ Besides, America already has that! I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!” Classy. Real classy, Mr. President.

But what do I think about all this? I’m glad you asked. I’m like Schultz objectively, but I’m not completely moved. I’ve been experiencing a growing distaste for the extremes of both the Democrats and Republicans as I’ve become more immersed in the political sphere. Be it the racist, bigoted, science-denying Republicans hollering racial slurs at rallies or the extreme Democrats unwilling to participate in genuine debate and compromise to argue for the validity of their beliefs, the current state of partisanship has created no room for centrists and has effectively drowned out more moderate, capable, and intelligent voices in the quest for an absolute set of beliefs to characterize either side. Schultz seems to be echoing a similar belief. As he said in his 60 Minutes interview, he believes that the United States is in a “fragile time” not only because Trump is “unqualified,” but because of ‘the fact that both parties are consistently not doing what’s necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged every single day in revenge politics.” I agree with this notion wholeheartedly. Politics should not be a game of revenge and ignorance, but an open debate to evaluate the best decisions for our country, and the extremes on both sides are disallowing proper debate. And about the threat to the Democrats, it is entirely possible that Schultz will appeal to moderate Republicans too, equalizing the threat to liberal candidates while creating a strong cause for centrist viewpoints and disproving the concept that an extreme candidate is needed to motivate voters.

But why aren’t I completely convinced? Well, sure, I like Schultz. He played a strong role in Starbucks’ success, working to not only grow the company but better workers’ lives and engaging in social issues as discussed in several interviews with Schultz. Yes, I agree that the extremism has prevented discussion, and, in all honesty, I can’t stand Donald Trump. Schultz is even taking the right steps towards distinguishing himself from Trump by announcing that he will “absolutely release” his tax returns upon running for president. So why am I, along with what seems like the majority of moderates and independents, not convinced? First, I have been leaning left thanks largely to Trump, and, as of now, Republicans are just more motivated to vote for one candidate than the Democrats. So, the greater risk Schultz poses to Democratic candidates and the possibility of living my future college years under a sequel of Trump’s presidency scare me.

But greater than that is the lack of a specific set of intentions and decisions that Schultz has provided that he intends on making clear if he were to secure a possible presidency. David Siders of Politico.com writes, “Schultz, who describes himself as a lifelong Democrat, offered only a skirting response when asked if he worried about siphoning votes from the Democratic Party’s eventual nominee. He said on 60 Minutes, ‘I want to see the American people win. I want to see America win.’” It’s blanket statements like these and his inability to answer questions concerning his threat towards a Democratic victory that convince me less and less of his ability to run and lead. A leader without a set of clear intentions isn’t a leader but merely a figurehead. And I don’t want Mr. Starbucks running our country with vague messages of American unity if he is unwilling to establish what his views are that entitle him to run as an independent. Moderate Democrats and Republicans can exist, you know. If he could establish his views and choose one or the other, he would likely have a greater chance of succeeding in his candidacy and create a precedent for more centrist views proving victorious within one of the larger parties. A great example of a candidate who expresses a clear set of intentions and opinions is Beto O’Rourke, which I believe credits his remarkable, ever-so-close-to-winning success in Texas. Just two hours ago, from when I am writing this, he announced he will be holding a counter-rally to Trump in El Paso regarding the border wall.

I believe that America needs a leader who can take action without reverting to extremism and express his or her opinions openly. So unless Schultz becomes very decisive very quickly and is able to clearly express why his beliefs don’t fall under either party, his already slim chances of winning will fade into oblivion as the centrist candidate that could have been, much like steam from a cup of coffee.

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