Howard Schultz for president?

  • NEMAN NEMAN

Published: 2/7/2019 7:59:01 AM

Howard who? Is doing what? Clearly I should pay more attention to businessmen and billionaires.

Let me confess ignorance. Until recently, the name Howard Schultz did not mean anything to me. Perhaps he existed somewhere in my sub-consciousness, but in a place that required far too many properly functioning synapses for me to conjure. Now I know.

Howard Schultz founded and served as the CEO of Starbucks. And apparently he thinks he should be president of the United States. He first made this declaration on 60 Minutes and since then has repeated that aspiration many times.

It’s not an insane idea. After all, if an incompetent, utterly dishonest, bankruptcy-burdened, inherited-wealth billionaire can be elected president, why not a smart, creative, apparently honest and ethical, self-made entrepreneurial one?

For two related reasons. First, as a third party candidate he won’t win. Second, his involvement in the presidential race of 2020 (assuming that Trump is not removed after impeachment and hasn’t resigned) would dramatically increase Trump’s chances of re-election. Can you say Ralph Nader? Also, Jill Stein, Ross Perot, and John Anderson?

Schultz rejects the narrative of him as a Democratic spoiler and Trump enabler. He insists that he will be a bright shining alternative to the two major parties and will likely take as many votes away from the Republican nominee as the Democratic one.

There is a word that describes this. Malebovinefecalmatter.

Even after the government shutdown and two years of lying, hypocrisy and inhumanity, Donald Trump retains the loyalty of three-quarters percent of Republicans. That’s huge. And although support for Trump from the remaining Republicans may feel squishy, even they are not looking to buy what Howard Schultz has to sell.

Schultz proclaims that he is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. The problem is that the Republican voters from whom he seeks support are neither. In general (there are exceptions, of course) they are economically liberal (they depend substantially on government programs) and socially conservative (they’re opposed to LGBTQ rights, immigrants, and electoral reform). Few would desert Trump.

Consider, for example, the recent report to WHMP’s Morning Show host Bob Flaherty from a CBS radio correspondent in Eagle River, Wisconsin, where the temperature was minus-28 degrees. That reporter, in response to a question from Flaherty about the polar vortex and climate change said, “This area . . . . went overwhelmingly for President Trump. Up here people aren’t into the climate change thing . . . They would echo Trump . . . what climate change?”

In contrast to his minimal allure for the Republicans, Schultz’s campaign may resonate with some centrist, Democratic-leaning voters. He could siphon off enough of those votes to land the election in Trump’s lap notwithstanding – or maybe because of – his opposition to Medicare-For-All and new taxes on billionaires.

Which brings us to consideration of Ralph Nader. Nader emphatically insists that he did not cost Al Gore the 2000 election. Nader targets Al Gore as the reason that Gore lost. Not to mention the Supreme Court, which invented a new legal theory to stop the Florida recount and select George W. Bush as president.

The official Florida election returns state that Bush prevailed over Gore by 537 votes, a margin of 48.847 percent to 48.838 percent, in the election where Nader tallied 97,488 votes. About half those Nader voters reported that in a two-way race, they would have voted for Gore; about 20 percent said they would have chosen Bush; and about 30 percent said they would not have voted. Although many factors contributed to Gore’s defeat, this truth remains: but for Nader, Gore would have won Florida and the Presidency.

Today, Florida remains closely divided politically and in 2020 is allotted 29 of the 270 electoral votes, 10.7 percent of the number, needed to win the general election. And while next year’s election won’t bring us hanging chad ballot problems, we can fully expect egregious efforts by Republicans at voter manipulation and suppression.

In the 2016 election Trump received 46.1 percent of the votes cast, almost three million fewer than Hillary Clinton. Given the anti-democratic institution of the Electoral College, a credible third party candidate could cause Trump to be re-elected next year with even fewer votes and a smaller percentage of the popular vote than he received last time.

Third party candidates deserve a meaningful chance to participate and win. And voters should be able to cast their ballot for their first choice without fearing that their vote in effect will help elect someone they consider despicable. These considerations attest to the need for ranked choice voting.

But we don’t have ranked choice voting. We have Trump, an authoritarian who poses an existential threat to democracy.

In America, any billionaire can create his own party and run for president. As for Shultz, before he spends a few hundred million dollars to get his name on the ballot, we can hope that common sense and some residual humility will prevail over his vanity.

Bill Newman is a Northampton lawyer and the host of a daily radio show on WHMP.

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