Howard Schultz and A Feeling of What’s To Come
Howard Schultz came to Philadelphia last week on his book and listening tour. Given all the controversy surrounding his potential candidacy, I thought it would be beneficial to hear for myself what he had to say and his presentation. I am not a coffee drinker – in fact, have never had a cup in my life – but I am a decent political observer and am able to size up a crowd.
Walking up to the block where Schultz was speaking, demonstrators protesting his appearance met the audience with signs and handed out leaflets. Being the cynic, I could not help but think this was not spontaneous but organized by some third party, from Russians to Democratic Socialists. Who knows these days?
Their message was clear – Howard Schultz on the ballot meant a second term for Donald Trump.
The auditorium was sold out for the event, and the air swirled with apprehension, opposition, and fear. After all, this was Bluer-than-Blue Philadelphia. Schultz took the stage to be interviewed by political analyst Bill Kristol. It was amazing how much legacy conservative Kristol had in common with his liberal audience and Schultz himself: a disappointment in the current system and a maniacal dislike for the guy sitting in the Oval Office.
From a message and ideological perspective, I am in sync with Schultz and I would say, so was the vast majority of the audience. His elevator speech was laser-focused, even if it lacked inspiration. He gave the audience the magic pledge that in no way would his candidacy lead to the re-election of Donald Trump. He was succinct that a Trump re-election was a deal breaker for him. There is no reason to think he would back off from that promise, and it was that statement that swayed the audience more than any other and elicited the biggest response of the evening.
The fear that encapsulated the night and many Democrats and Independents is the Democratic nominee will not be electable. They say the Party is being moved leftward and, in some cases, even beyond the progressive guardrails. The Trump charge of candidates committed to a socialist agenda has a good chance to stick, especially when one considers that his descriptions of “caravans” found many willing believers.
As I spoke to many in attendance, they could relate when Schultz stated the Democratic Party left him, and he knew he could not survive a primary electorate. The candidates that are so quick to embrace New Green Deals, an abolition of ICE, Medicare for All might be music to activist ears, even if they don’t consider the consequences of these ideas. Does it carry the states that are needed to send Trump back to Mar-A-Lago?
One has to wonder if candidate Barack Obama could have made it through the progressive hurdles of 2020.
Finally, Ocasio-Cortez and other’s rejection of Amazon HQ2 in New York should send a clear warning signal that a few loud voices can snatch a perceived easy victory into a humiliating economic defeat. The fact that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo were rendered politically impotent by naïve activists who sought to notch a win over the world’s most successful company should in itself be reason enough for Howard Schultz to stay in the game.
I would not put my money on Howard Schultz being our next Commander in Chief, but I do believe his candidacy provides a safety valve for our country. If his presence somehow encourages the Democrats to nominate someone who can win in a Red State or has done well with Independents, then he has done his job.
If the Democrats go the far left route and in mid-October, the mainstream Democrat is losing in the Electoral College, then we at least have the potential for an October surprise. The opportunity to defeat Trump is still the Democrats’ overarching goal, so the nominee withdraws, and Schultz is put in place to win the election.
Or – and this is the best possible outcome – the Democrat leads, conventional wisdom says Schultz can only be a spoiler, and he gracefully bows out.
There was true fear in that audience last week that Schultz is a spoiler. But paired with that apprehension was the knowledge that what may cut it in Philadelphia might not play in the rest of the state and the Midwest. As long as Howard Schultz understands his role going forward and voters understand this next cycle will have many chapters, then coffee will not be the only liquid being discussed.
It will be an election season that will be more fluid than any in our history.