After returning home from quite a number of trips to Italy, my wife and I have always talked about bringing the delightful coffee experience to this country. Howard Schultz, CEO Emeritus of Starbucks, did it. Coffee zealots and even casual caffeine addicts will suggest that he did not do it well, but few will deny that he did it successfully.
Now Schultz wants to run for President and there is a high likelihood that he will do that neither well nor successfully, though I would put higher odds on him contributing thoughtful practical ideas than on winning. His problem is that he does not want to run in his own Democratic party or – perish the thought — as a Republican. He wants to run as an independent and skip all the primary/caucus/convention crap.
Creating Starbucks is different from running for President. When Schultz started his company, there was almost no competition in high-end coffee. An independent run for President will require him to go head to head with the election industry, an entrenched duopoly that, above all else, wants to keep being a duopoly.
Let’s rip off the Band-Aid right up front. “Above all else” is the key phrase in the previous paragraph and it is intentionally inflammatory. The election industry cares far less about competing policy ideas than it cares about controlling the election process.
Here (thanks to Axios) are two quotes from leading election industry players.
“He can’t win, and he could seriously damage our ability to beat Donald Trump. He should either run as a Democrat, or spend his time and money doing something that won’t ruin the world.” – Jim Messina, former President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager. Jim, would it be more accurate to say “ruin the world” or “ruin your world?”
“Howard Schultz is a jackass. … He’s arrogant and wealthy — and those people tend to not see the world as it is.” – Philippe Reines, Democratic campaign strategist and major figure in Hillary land. Ahhhh, Philippe what would happen if we replaced the words Howard Schultz with Hillary Clinton?
Those quotes are some pretty serious rhetoric but they are not occasioned by policy differences or even beating Donald Trump. Messina and Reines are outraged by the threat to their livelihoods.
As it happens, we choose the Democratic and Republican nominees for President in what is surely one of the stupidest processes ever devised to select any candidate for any job, to say nothing of the presidency, which is rather an important one.
Eating corn dogs in Iowa; wearing blue jeans and plaid shirts while standing on staged hay bales; eating at a greasy spoon in New Hampshire; even the conventions. You can’t make this up. It is what we do to select a person who has the power to do considerable harm and perhaps even some good.
Stupid as that selection process is, people like Reines and Messina control it and make huge amounts of money from it. To be fair, they are but examples of the election industry not its entirety. There are plenty of others. Do the words Podesta, Manafort and Stone resonate? Election industry Hall of Famers.
There is an arguable view that most voters are more or less in the middle of the various political debates and that they could happily compromise on most issues, put check marks next to those discussions and get on with their lives. The problem is that these voters are not sufficiently outraged and do not contribute enough to support the election industry in the top 1% style to which it has become accustomed. Hence they must be silenced.
It is entirely legitimate to consider the majority of voters who disapprove of President Trump. If they are split into, for example, a progressive camp and a centrist camp, the President might sneak through to a second term. For some, this is the overriding consideration: first beat Trump then worry about the election process.
Likely that view will prevail amid a barrage of learned “third party candidates can’t win” cable TV comments made by election industry veterans who don’t even want independent candidates to exist let alone win. If so, on current form, we’ll end up with a choice between President Trump and a progressive, perhaps even a zealot.
That contest might not end up any better for the Democrats than did 2016 and they will have missed the chance to hear from any number of pragmatists who might do the job well even if their fans didn’t contribute as much to the aggregate net worth of the election industry.
It is tough to think of a business more in need of disruption than the one that served up such dreadful finalists in 2016. Sadly for all of us, that is also a business that gets to make up all the rules that govern it and, of course it makes those rules for its own benefit.
“But this is the most important election in our lifetime so we can’t risk doing anything different,” say the campaign strategists as they head for the bank. True, just like all the others.