Showing posts with label Independent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Independent. 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.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

I have never been more optimistic about the future of the world than I am today.




I understand that it is hard to fathom or comprehend my optimism based on what you see and hear in the news and on every TV channel in America and globally. Let me explain.

I do not see the world through rose-tinted glasses or suggest that things are hunky-dory. I see the same turmoil: civil wars, terrorist attacks and the potential descent of stable democracies into chaotic anarchy.

In fact, I see chaos growing and I also have absolutely no doubt that things are going to get much uglier, globally and here in America, in the short-term. I see all the same things you do but I also see something you may not - yet.

I have spent the last couple of years getting actively involved in a number of social issues in India, and as part of an organisation in America that brings together accomplished people from many fields, from journalism and marketing to banking and politics. Through this organisation and my personal efforts I have had the opportunity to listen to and engage with a broad spectrum of corporate, social and political leaders, behind closed doors. I have also spent time engaging with extreme right and left wing voices, on Twitter, both in India and America.

In these interactions and in-depth conversations, I have listened closely and learned much more than I could ever learn from watching the news or reading articles that increasingly tilt left or right, but are always filled with one-sided opinions.

Here is the reason for my optimism. I have been heartened to see that many of the people I have met and worked with no longer see the world through a markedly liberal or conservative lens. Like me, they see a world filled with serious and pressing problems that no politician is willing to take on or solve in a manner that goes against their party base or donor interests.

Time and again we have found that it is politicians who have been the fundamental roadblock to solving issues because they invariably put pseudo-ideological and big money interests ahead of meaningful solutions. From the refugee crisis, to understanding the motivations of jihadists, to helping get young girls out of the sex trade - there are many brilliant solutions available that simply cannot be affected because our leaders lack the political will and integrity (and fear losing their popularity) to fight for them.

The people I have worked and engaged with are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent and come from virtually every political stripe, but not one of them is slave to party affiliation or ideology. They are slaves only to solutions that work, and they refuse to accept less effective solutions merely to placate some personal ideology or partisan bias.

I call us the post-partisans.

We often vehemently disagree with each other but always do so civilly and respectfully.

We have found that heated debate, one that features a multitude of diverse viewpoints, leads to the most innovative and breakthrough solutions. But we never take any of what is discussed to heart or personally.

We also choose never to take offense, even if sometimes in the heat of debate, it is intended. Not because we are without feelings, but because we remind ourselves that the problems we face are bigger and far more pressing than ego or hurt feelings.

We always come with an open mind. Our goal is also never to try and get others to see the world the way we do, but to find the brightest, most cost-efficient and lasting solutions to the problems that affect us all, irrespective of our politics.

Through our dealings, conversations and our work we have realised that political parties can no longer be relied on to lead us forward or solve the problems we face.

Over the last three decades political parties, left and right have deteriorated further into an ideological abyss. They have allowed the most hardened and extremist voices within their ranks to take the reins, and are no longer able to offer thoughtful or pragmatic solutions. Instead, their solutions are built for populist rabble rousing or designed to pander to some narrow interest group.

The post-partisan mentality is a growing movement across the world. It consists not of people who identify as liberal or conservative, but of a coalition of the willing (not like those who invaded Iraq in 2003!), who are passionate about a cause. They consist of people from vastly different backgrounds, upbringing, skill sets and political views who find each other because we are looking for apolitical and uncompromised solutions. Many of us will never become friends, but we will often find ourselves on the same side of a problem and remain together until we find and implement a robust solution.

I am not suggesting that all this will happen overnight or magically mitigate the pain and suffering in the world. I have realised that pain and suffering are part of the human condition, and while we must always strive to lessen each other’s, we also cannot function without them. Remember that there could be no courage if there is no adversity, and good cannot triumph without evil. Real societal change, that requires changing attitudes and mindsets, always takes a generation or more to affect and there is no way around that.

So the rise of populists, nationalist and narcissists do not scare us, but has been a great motivating factor for all post-partisans; we gladly accept the challenge. Their effect has been to end our complacency and serve as a necessary wake up call, one that reminded us that it is naïve to expect democracy to be safeguarded by coming out to vote once every few years or by entrusting it to a corrupt and ideologically bent political class intent on defending their power, at all costs.

It will not be easy but nothing worth doing ever is. The road ahead is arduous and the journey painful (and sometimes bloody) but one thing I know for sure is that we will overcome and our democracies will become stronger for it. The future is very bright and the number of post-partisans will only continue to grow.

My mother once told me something that I never fully appreciated or understood until now – she said, “the job of a parent is not to protect their child from the world but to prepare them for it.”

I am ready