Schultz unites par­ties – against him

Boston Herald - - OPINION - By SALENA ZITO Salena Zito is a CNN po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst.

The end­less fight be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats seemed to pause re­cently.

The cause — for­mer Star­bucks CEO Howard Schultz’s an­nounce­ment on “60 Min­utes” on Jan. 27 that he is se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing a 2020 run for pres­i­dent as a cen­trist in­de­pen­dent. So­cial me­dia and par­ti­san opin­ion writ­ers lost their col­lec­tive minds on that pos­si­bil­ity, one of the par­ties seem­ingly de­ploy­ing an ac­tivist to dis­rupt his first pub­lic out­ing, a New York City book event. “Don’t help elect Trump, you ego­tis­ti­cal bil­lion­aire (ex­ple­tive),” the heck­ler yelled. “Go back to get­ting ra­tioed on Twit­ter. Go back to Davos with the other bil­lion­aire elites who think they know how to run the world.”

The pres­i­dent had his own opin­ion on a Schultz run, tweet­ing: “Howard Schultz doesn’t have the ‘guts’ to run for Pres­i­dent! Watched him on @60Min­utes last night and I agree with him that he is not the ‘smartest per­son.’ Be­sides, Amer­ica al­ready has that! I only hope that Star­bucks is still pay­ing me their rent in Trump Tower!”

The head­lines from ma­jor news­pa­pers and dig­i­tal news pub­li­ca­tions were equally un­kind. “Schultz Is the An­swer No One Is Look­ing for” was the CNN head­line. Vox went with “Dear Bil­lion­aires: Stop Run­ning for Pres­i­dent.” When “Morn­ing Joe” co-host Mika Brzezin­ski asked Schultz whether he knows the price of Chee­rios, it be­came a Twit­ter thing for hours.

The ques­tion is: Why the freak­out? A Pew sur­vey on po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy in Novem­ber showed over­all Amer­i­cans place them­selves close to the mid­point on the ide­o­log­i­cal scale. Why would some­one run­ning as a cen­trist get so much guff ?

Easy, said Michael Wear, a Demo­crat who worked on the White House faith­based ini­tia­tive dur­ing Pres- ident Barack Obama’s first term and di­rected faith out­reach for his 2012 re-elec­tion cam­paign. “I think their po­si­tion against him goes es­pe­cially to the early part of the pri­mary process, which is tai­lored to ac­tivists and donors rather than vot­ers, so as some­one out­side of the party sys­tem, they can ex­pose all of those weak­ness,” he said. “And they can also ex­pose all of the room in the mid­dle, be­cause they are try­ing to win cam­paigns on how aw­ful the other can­di­date is.”

In short, a Schultz run or any other in­de­pen­dent run will ex­pose how the par­ti­san game is played and how much vot­ers’ con­cerns are ig­nored in fa­vor of donors’ and ac­tivists’.

Nei­ther party wants to re­veal that it wants to avoid the mid­dle to win the pri­mary, and you can’t win a pri­mary with­out throw­ing red meat to the ac­tivists and the donors.

An in­de­pen­dent cen­trist like Schultz wouldn’t face the scru­tiny of a com­pet­i­tive pri­mary race, Wear said. “That is why I am cold on in­de­pen­dent can­di­da­cies, es­pe­cially in an elec­tion that is go­ing to be this im­por­tant.”

But that does not mean cen­trist Democrats shouldn’t run. “Of course, there is room for a cen­trist, and I hope that more cen­trists run in the Demo­cratic Party,” Wear said, “some­one who puts for­ward an ac­tive vi­sion of how gov­ern­ment could help those in need, and the cri­sis we face in eco­nom­ics and cli­mate change, and presses the pause but­ton on the cul­ture wars.”

“This is where I think there is an op­por­tu­nity for some­one who would tone down the vit­riol in pol­i­tics and have an ac­tive vi­sion to bring us to­gether,” said Wear. “I think of Michael Bennet, Mitch Lan­drieu, John Bel Edwards or Amy Klobuchar,” the Colorado sen­a­tor, for­mer New Or­leans mayor, Louisiana gover­nor and Min­nesota sen­a­tor, re­spec­tively.

Ev­ery over­re­ac­tion in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics tends to be about one of the two par­ties’ vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. An in­de­pen­dent can­di­date like Schultz hits both es­tab­lish­ment par­ties’ weak­nesses; they care more about their donors and their ac­tivists than the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple in this coun­try, which is just look­ing for com­pe­tent lead­er­ship.


PO­LIT­I­CAL AM­BI­TIONS: For­mer Star­bucks CEO Howard Schultz said he is con­sid­er­ing run­ning for pres­i­dent in 2020.

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