It’s taken me two days to digest the news that Howard Schultz is seriously considering running for President of the USA.
My first reaction was: this might even be a form of teal politics, but in any case, this is horrible!
I thought about it some more, digesting Chait’s observation that:
The dominant issue in American politics in 2020 is going to be Trump, and even a relatively conservative splinter candidate will tend to draw from the anti-Trump side.
My second reaction was: this is even worse than I thought!
Having had ample time to calm down and reflect soberly, my third reaction is: yeah, this is probably one form of teal politics emerging, but it’s terrible. This could be the way that America commits suicide.
Sorry to sound melodramatic about it, but Howard Schultz is ruining everything. Our best hope is that he doesn’t actually run and all other billionaires follow Michael Bloomberg’s lead and run within the existing two-party duopoly structure.
Steve Schmidt, adviser to Schultz:
We have 57 choices of ketchup and 500 TV channels. Very nearly everything has been disrupted in the country, from how we buy groceries to how we consume news, except for the system that produces the political leadership of the country.
Schultz’s bid is a product of green postmodern pluralism in this sense: he sees the opportunity to “disrupt” the broken system. He thinks it will produce Trump plus a far-left candidate in the Democratic Party (a claim that willfully misrepresents the diversity of Democratic candidates and is not yet proven), and therefore he needs to create a positive alternative, a synthesis of left and right. Theoretically, as I said in my original social media comment, this could be a post-green move (i.e., teal politics disrupting pluralism by taking advantage of it –a particular form of pluralism that reacts against Bernie Sanders’s extreme green).
But yuck! What a disaster waiting to happen. The timing is dreadful: we’ve got an orange megalomanic, pathological, malignant buffoon poisoning our water, destroying democracy, befriending criminal autocrats, and behaving recklessly with nuclear rivals. Getting Trump and his ilk out of power is paramount, and yet Schultz is ready to disrupt by giving Trump his best chance for reelection by splitting the anti-Trump vote.
I can easily imagine a scenario where this would be a good time for a teal centrist to step onto the world stage, but it would require running within the Democratic Party. Unfortunately for Schultz, he has already analyzed the Democratic field as too strong for him to win, so he has rejected it. As Jonathan Chait accurately points out, Schultz is a dreadful candidate and so he wastes this opportunity. He is spineless on raising taxes on the wealthy and he is open to shredding the social safety net, facts that make him more of an exploiter of the system rather than its rescuer. The ex-CEO of Starbucks wants to exploit the tea party and MAGA anxiety about deficits to win, but he misdiagnoses our problems and is not willing to risk any political capital to achieve his faux solution (more tax cuts).
Anyone who wants to see the emergence of a third party in the USA will likely attach themselves to Schultz or perhaps throw a few votes to the Green Party. But this dream is nothing but fool’s gold. Our winner-take-all system is not really designed to give third parties power. It has never done so except in rare times when one party has utterly failed and a new party reaches the tipping point of surpassing it in popularity (and then a new duo-party system congeals).
Disruptions to our system have only two routes: the easy route is not-so-easy because it requires the transformation of one party from within (what Trump is achieving now with the GOP and what Schultz lacks the spine to do with the Democratic Party); the hard route is very hard because it requires the passage of one or more Constitutional Amendments that could change our voting system itself. No one seems to have the will for that.
Schultz might very well design a teal-looking and teal-sounding campaign marrying social liberalism (green) and fiscally conservative values (orange), but it deserves scorn and rejection. It’s not enough to offer a synthesis of competing value systems. It’s also necessary to act appropriately/wisely, at the right time, with the right measure, with the right goods fitting for the system. A higher consciousness than teal knows these truths that have been part of the world’s political wisdom since the age of Confucius in the East and Aristotle in the West. In a different time with a different candidate, a teal politics might work, but Schultz isn’t the right medicine.
Schultz The Disruptor has arrived just in time to scare everyone into thinking that Trump might get re-elected thanks to the delusions of a billionaire CEO. No one knows what will happen exactly, but when you take the worst aspects of libertarianism (feed the oligarchs!) and mix them with lukewarm progressivism (let them eat cake with icing on top!), you aren’t really in for a tasty treat, bend over because if you’re one of the 99%, then you’re going to get screwed. Thanks for nothing, Schultz!
If Schultz runs, the race will very well be disrupted … in Trump’s favor. Too bad Schultz is feeling the centrist fever without having deeply understood our nation’s problems and offered real solutions. A flimsy teal politics at the wrong time with the wrong candidate may be the doom our nation deserves, punishments for its narcissism and greed and shallow liberal idealism. If this is to be our end, I hoped we would meet a better end than this.