Showing posts with label Howard Schultz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Howard Schultz. Show all posts

Monday, September 30, 2019

Why I disagree with Howard Schultz’s Decision Not To Run in 2020

 
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaking at an event. (Image: John Hanna/AP)
"When nothing is sure, everything is possible." 
Margaret Atwood 

I have always admired and respected Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, for the way in which he built a great global company. One that espouses purpose and giving back as things that are not just words in some corporate manifesto, but in tangible ways that impact lives of employees and people within the communities they serve. Starbucks under his leadership has never just talked the talk. 

So I was excited when he announced that he was exploring running as an independent candidate for President United Sates of America. I have written why I believe that an independent candidate running in 2020 is not just a good idea to help re-invigorate liberalism but also necessary to save our democracy from extremists on both sides who currently dominate and drive the conversation. I believe it is necessary to awaken the silent majority. 

So I was saddened to get his email explaining his decision to give up, even before he started this important fight. I understand that in the interim Mr. Schultz suffered a serious back injury and had to undergo multiple surgeries which have prevented him from travelling, and limited his outreach, but he does not cite the injury as the reason for not moving forward.

On the contrary, throughout his email he talks about the reasons an independent candidate should be running. He talks about the fact that we currently have a situation where Democrats and Republicans have consistently put party over country, perpetuated divisiveness and gridlock, failed to solve big problems and the “American people are more united than our leaders, and we deserve better.” 

A CBS news poll finds that by margins of more than two to one, Democrats are looking for someone who will unite the country, rather than push for more liberal policies. This 70% of democratic voters is a whopping majority, and not a small number. The same poll found that, contrary to the angry voices who dominate social media, eighty-two percent of democratic voters want someone “who expresses a hopeful tone about the potential of the country” to counter Trump’s vitriol and divisiveness, not someone who will offer more of the same but on the left. Further, it finds that in early primary states, “a notable two-thirds said they want a nominee who would work with Republicans to get things done once in office.” 

There is much data that shows that Mr. Schultz is correct about the fact that our country is more united than the hopelessly divided picture that is painted in the mainstream media, through the narrow prism of social media and by divisive politicians in both parties. 

Consider that even on the most polarising issues, there is overwhelming consensus on both sides of the aisle when it comes to voters. A Yale University study that has been tracking beliefs about climate changes for the last five years finds that 73% of Americans believe that global warming is real, 69% are worried about it and 62% believe it is being caused by human activity.

Another Quinnipiac University poll found that a majority of respondents (66%) support stricter gun laws and 97% support universal background checks. Further, 83% agree with a mandatory waiting period before someone is able to purchase a firearm and 67% support an all-out assault weapons ban. This commanding majority also agrees that it is too easy to buy a gun (67%) and three-quarters believe that “Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence.” 

There is already common ground on which practical and sensible solutions can be built, even on the most divisive and polarising issues. Unfortunately common sense and unity do not make for stories that drive great ratings, clicks or create drama in a field of twenty-plus candidates. 

More in Common, a nonprofit that reaches across political divides, has found that even though we hold dissimilar views on numerous issues, more than three in four Americans believe that “our differences aren’t so great that we can’t work together.”  

They have also found clear evidence of an "exhausted majority” that Mr. Schultz refers to in his email. This majority is sick and tired of the political polarisation and constant focus on our divisions versus on the values that unite us. Their report states that people share a deep sense of gratitude that they are citizens of the United States. They want to move past our differences.”

Amanda Ripley writes in the Washington post about research showing that the ideal candidate that voters are looking for is not a person with all the answers and policy solutions. The fact is that most people are pragmatic and understand that no one person, or party, can provide all the answers. Also, they don’t trust politicians to follow through on their promises. 

They are looking for a candidate who understands their realities. “When people feel understood, they become more willing to hear different ideas”. The research finds that people are more willing to listen to a person who can recognize and acknowledge their struggles, even if they disagree with a candidate’s specific policies and solution.

Given this I truly believe that it will be nearly impossible for a candidate from either party to appeal to this important silent majority that has the power to break the will of the vociferous minority. At a time when Congress’s approval rating hovers in the high teens and disapproval remains steady at 79% according to the latest Gallup poll, and more than two-thirds of Americans have little or no confidence in the federal governmentwe will need someone who can break this status quo. I believe that someone needs to be an independent candidate. 

Barack Obama was such a candidate. The fact that he was an unknown and political novice made his appeal cut across partisan divides and gave people the hope that neither Senator McCain nor Senator Clinton was able to offer. Once again in 2016 voters rejected ALL the establishment candidates and chose another outsider, albeit of a very different stripe. 

Another reason it is important for an independent candidate to run is because the presidential primary process is flawed. By only allowing registered voters to participate, versus the entire electorate, it allows a small, vociferous minority in the base to dictate terms and drive the outcomes. Historically, voter participation in the primaries hovers at less than 20%. 

Hamstrung by this reality, candidates are unable to speak to the broader electorate, or posit solutions that break with their party’s positions on issues. They must pander to their extremes. We saw the disastrous results of this strategy unfold in the 2016 Republican primaries that enabled Donald Trump to lead a hostile takeover of the party of Abraham Lincoln. I fear the same will thing will happen to Democrats by time the field of twenty candidates is winnowed. 

Irrespective, the damage with the silent majority is already done because candidates cannot unsay and undo the partisan, polarising and extreme views and positions they have taken during the primaries and suddenly transform into people who can cut across political divides. Mr. Schultz identifies this danger and says he is worried about “far-left policy ideas being advanced by several Democratic candidates” and rightly believes it will serve to further alienate voters.”  

The irony is that he closes by saying that the silent majority has been drowned out by vitriolic extremes and “has largely tuned out of political life online and in the news, leaving the extreme voices to define the debate.” Yet, rather than offer a reason for this majority re-engage and lead the charge in taking back control of our national debate, he chooses to step out of the arena and makes a plea for us to find “the best of ourselves on the national stage, and to the world”. 

I understand that running for President is not an easy decision and it is a deeply personal one that will involve dragging oneself and one’s family though the mud of modern day media. So I do not think less of him or judge Mr. Shultz for choosing not to proceed.

Given where we are today in our one-sided political debates and with the dearth of leadership in both parties, I believe the risk of an independent candidate running at the cost of re-electing President Trump, is one worth taking.

As long as private citizens like Mr. Schultz and Mr. Bloomberg who have the means to finance national campaigns, unlike the rest of us, choose not to be the “man (or woman) who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood” we will not be able to break the two-party stranglehold on our democracy.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Howard Schultz, The Democratic Party and The Future of Liberalism

Howard Schultz on 60 Minutes (Image: CBS)


“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.” 
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, appeared on CBS 60 minutes recently and declared that he was considering running for President of United States of America, as an independent. The rebuke from the left was swift, predictable and harsh.

The New York Times ran an opinion piece calling Mr. Schultz irresponsible and self-centered. Vice wrote that whilst he was not the first billionaire to run for President, he was “the most disconnected from reality.”  There were also public threats to boycott Starbucks.

The boycott threat was led by Neera Tandon, a longtime Clinton acolyte, who served as Mrs. Clinton’s policy director for her first failed presidential bid. The justice editor of a left-leaning publication, Think Progress, said that if Mr. Schultz runs, the Democratic National Committee and "major unions" and "major presidential campaigns" should "all use their email lists to promote a Starbucks boycott until he drops out."  Sadly, boycott calls have become a standard bullying tactic the left uses whenever someone does or says something they disagree with.

I was disappointed because this pushback confirmed that liberals no longer believe they have a persuasive argument or that they can win people with ideas. Instead, much like Mr. Trump they resort to bullying and browbeating anyone who dare challenge or expose this truth.

Democrats fear Mr. Schultz will split the anti-Trump vote and hand Mr. Trump a second term. This is a valid concern. However, what Democrats fail to understand is that there is a deeper malaise within liberalism that needs to be addressed, and it has nothing to do with Mr. Trump.

Liberals have long refused to acknowledge that the Trumps, Modis and Bolsanaros did not win - liberalism lost. 

Over the last fifty plus years liberalism grew complacent and ignored the growing economic inequality and social divides prevalent in every democracy. Liberals forgot that democracies, like gardens, are fragile and need constant tending. As a result, what remains today is a vapid shell of liberalism; one that stands for nothing but is against everything. It is defensive, cowardly and quick to chastise everyone, but offers no alternate vision.

Our problems are deep, messy, and have been building over generations; there are no “big ideas” or quick and easy solutions, it will take more than one generation to fix them. However, unless we start to have the prickly, honest conversations and dig into inconvenient and uncomfortable issues, we will continue to create room for extremists and false prophets, on the right and left, who will gladly fill these voids with superficial, dangerous and divisive solutions. 

I don’t want to defeat Trump; I want to address the root causes that enable people like him to win power in the first place. And the only way to do this is by offering a bold new vision for liberalism. One that is rooted in humility, civility, compassion and recognition that nobody has the answers. We will need to work together, across the political spectrum, to solve our deepest and most intractable problems.

There is already a grave danger that the continued and increasing lack of unity and disarray within the Democratic Party will likely result in Mr. Trump's winning a second term. A party that might field twenty-five to fifty plus candidates stands for nothing and will never offer a compelling vision. They will be too busy infighting and their candidates will need to resort to being outrageous or to positing extremist views, simply to stand out in a crowded field. 

The continued framing of issues with race and gender politics have also come home to roost for Democrats. We now know that Mrs. Warren identified herself As ‘American Indian’ on her Texas Bar Registration, and in Virginia the party is in full self-destruct mode. The Governor and Attorney General, both white men, admitted to wearing blackface, and the lieutenant governor, a black man, has been accused of multiple sexual assaults. The New York Times described this mess “unfolding at the intersection of race and gender, and risks pitting the party’s most pivotal constituencies against one another.”

I have sounded the alarm bells before. More than six months before the 2016 election, it became clear to me that Mrs. Clinton’s tone-deaf campaign and Democrat’s lack of cohesive message and vision was going to allow Mr. Trump an unlikely path to victory. I wrote to her campaign begging her to drop out, suggesting that if she loved this country she would let someone else run. 

Today, I am convinced Democrats are lulling themselves into the same false sense of security that Mrs. Clinton did, because they are once again unable to see past the President’s low poll numbers, historic unpopularity and the large number of investigations into his business and political activities. It is naïve and dangerous to think that any of this will translate into electoral support for Democrats from independents and anti-Trump conservatives. Especially not when they are running around championing socialism as the answer to all our problems.

The fact is that the majority of independents and anti-Trump conservatives I know find themselves without a party, and Democrats have shown zero interest in courting these voters. So I am convinced that the threat of an independent, centrist candidate is the wake-up call needed to ensure Democrats do not hand Mr. Trump his second term on a platter; like they did his first.

I admit my logic might seem counter-intuitive to some, but there is one thing I have learned about human nature; people do no act in their self-interest until there is an imminent threat. Consider that most young people do not spend money on health insurance simply because they have fewer ailments and feel healthier than older folks. By the same token most people do not buy renters insurance until they experience a pipe burst, a burglary or some other catastrophe.

I believe Mr. Schultz has integrity and would make a great President. I see in him a humility that is completely missing in our political class. If the politicians attacking him did a little research, they would find that while they have been busy making grandiose promises, Mr. Schultz was implementing solutions. Starbucks provides quality healthcare and college tuition for all of their employees and is also working to employ thousands of veterans, youth and refugees

Mr. Schultz’s candidacy will also compel the party to have a real debate, not superficial ones. It will force them to clearly articulate what liberalism stands for in the 21st century. They will need to present a unified platform and message derived from assembling the most viable ideas from different factions within the party; rather than have them compete. 

Also, they will not be able to placate a subset of their base with a populist or extreme agenda, and will need to appeal to the broader electorate. The threat of Mr. Schultz splitting the vote will ensure they can no longer sidestep this debate.

Mr. Shultz will challenge them with his ideas (we are yet to hear them) - good, bad and sometimes half-baked - and will force them to stake coherent positions on messy and uncomfortable issues. I have no idea what Democrat's position on immigration is. They will be forced to offer solutions versus platitudes about equality or utopian dreams of quality healthcare, universal income and college for all. 

To take on and defeat Mr. Schultz they will need to rally around a few nationally viable candidates, deliver a unified message and will not be able to get away with simply vilifying Mr. Trump or following him into the gutter. They will be forced to address all that is broken with liberalism, our political process and craft a new vision that has appeal for ALL Americans, not just for specific groups.

Democrats are acutely aware of this and that is why they are running scared of Mr. Schultz. 

It is interesting that the people attacking him most vehemently are people from the party that lost to Mr. Trump. The media pundits claiming that there is no path to victory for an independent candidate are also the same ones who assured us that Mrs. Clinton was going to win. 

America’s founding fathers didn’t want political parties as they feared factionalism. The two-party system today is their worst nightmare. Perhaps, the time has come to break the duopoly, partisan bickering and constant gridlock that do nothing to serve the people. 

Mr. Trump lacks integrity, maturity and the temperament to lead, but to defeat the forces of Trumpism, Democrats must beat him at the ballot box with their ideas, not with more extremism or threats of impeachment. 

There is no question that there are short-term risks of an independent candidate running, but the long-term cost of not starting this debate, combined with the Democrats dangerously erroneous path, will be much more harmful for liberalism and for democracy.