Schultz can win

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Voices - Bradley R. Gitz Free­lance colum­nist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, re­ceived his Ph.D. in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence from the Uni­ver­sity of Illi­nois.

Idon’t know much about Howard Schultz, and some of what I do know—that he opened up Star­bucks bath­rooms to va­grants as a silly ex­er­cise in po­lit­i­cally cor­rect virtue sig­nal­ing—isn’t par­tic­u­larly re­as­sur­ing.

Still, I ad­mit to be­ing more im­pressed by peo­ple who have made their money in the pri­vate sec­tor like Schultz than by the kind of pests who run for one pub­lic of­fice af­ter an­other and spend their lives spong­ing off the tax­pay­ers.

As much as it runs counter to the mushy egal­i­tar­i­an­ism of our age, I be­lieve most rich peo­ple got there be­cause they worked harder, were smarter, took more risks, and had bet­ter char­ac­ter than the rest of us.

Cap­i­tal­ism and cap­i­tal­ists ac­tu­ally cre­ate wealth by creat­ing use­ful prod­ucts and ser­vices (even if it comes in the form of cof­fee shops); so­cial­ism and so­cial­ists ul­ti­mately cre­ate noth­ing but shared mis­ery.

Within this con­text, as the Demo­cratic Party lurches toward Marx’s col­lec­tivist utopia it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how they pack­age it for con­sump­tion in a coun­try to this point largely im­mune to the virus. A new, more acute ver­sion of the pri­mary/gen­eral elec­tion prob­lem has likely ar­rived in which Democrats put on their so­cial­ist clothes to woo an in­creas­ingly so­cial­ist base in the pri­mary and then make sure to stash them in the closet be­fore Novem­ber.

Given this, one has to ap­pre­ci­ate Schultz’s skep­ti­cism toward his (ap­par­ently for­mer) party’s ar­ray of cur­rently fash­ion­able but thor­oughly nutty ideas—Medi­care for all, free col­lege, a 70 per­cent tax rate, a guar­an­teed gov­ern­ment job, a $15 min­i­mum wage, the Green New Deal, etc. (the list is get­ting so long as to raise the ques­tion of what Demo­cratic ideas these days aren’t nutty).

Even more amus­ing has been the fury on the left that the pos­si­bil­ity of a Schultz third-party bid has pro­voked, as if the prob­lem is him rather than them and he has no right to leave a party that has gone full Mad Hat­ter. The re­ac­tion to Schultz by Democrats iron­i­cally proves Schultz’s point about what is hap­pen­ing to the Democrats— as the wannabe Riefen­stahl of the rad­i­cal left, Michael Moore, re­cently put it, “If you’re moder­ate, stop be­ing moder­ate.”

The ba­sis of the fury in Schultz’s case stems not so much from his crit­i­cism of the Democrats’ left­ward lurch but fear that his can­di­dacy would split the Demo­cratic vote and re-elect Don­ald Trump (as if the kook we know would nec­es­sar­ily be worse than kooks we don’t, like El­iz­a­beth War­ren or Ka­mala Har­ris).

But what Schultz is count­ing on is that a plu­ral­ity of Amer­i­cans, per­haps a ma­jor­ity, are nei­ther Al­ways Trumpers nor mem­bers of the “re­sis­tance.” If he can play it the right way, de­fined as cred­i­bly pre­sent­ing him­self as a moder­ate, com­pe­tent al­ter­na­tive to the un­abashed Trot­skyite that the Democrats nom­i­nate and the un­hinged buf­foon cur­rently oc­cu­py­ing the Oval Of­fice, he might just have a shot.

In 2016, Amer­i­cans were forced to choose be­tween the two most un­pop­u­lar pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees in our na­tion’s his­tory, the po­lit­i­cal equiv­a­lents of the evil queen in Snow White and Lex Luthor (mi­nus the in­tel­li­gence and wit). It is un­likely that what they have wit­nessed since then, as Trump out­ra­geous­ness pro­voked Demo­cratic rad­i­cal­iza­tion, has al­le­vi­ated that re­vul­sion.

As such, “none of the above” has likely never sounded bet­ter to more peo­ple.

There are few be­liefs more firmly held, based on ad­mit­tedly vast his­tor­i­cal ev­i­dence, than that third par­ties can’t suc­ceed in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics; that the struc­tures and logic of our sys­tem dis­cour­age their for­ma­tion by guar­an­tee­ing their fail­ure.

In that sense, the be­lief has be­come some­thing of a self-ful­fill­ing prophecy—third par­ties can’t win be­cause peo­ple don’t vote for them be­cause they think they can’t win.

But such a be­lief also con­sti­tutes a form of con­ven­tional wis­dom at a time when a great deal of such wis­dom has been thrown out the win­dow—few thought any Euro­pean coun­try would vote to leave the Euro­pean Union, as Great Bri­tain did. And vir­tu­ally no one thought Trump had a chance to win the GOP nom­i­na­tion, let alone the pres­i­dency.

If we are liv­ing through a pe­riod of ram­pant pop­ulism, as many claim, there would be few more dra­matic ex­pres­sions of it than a re­jec­tion of both the ma­jor party pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees next time around, in essence a dis­card­ing of the tra­di­tional two-party sys­tem.

Im­plicit in the claim that third par­ties can never suc­ceed are ac­tu­ally some highly du­bi­ous, even nox­ious ideas—that what has long been must al­ways be, that sta­sis rather than change best char­ac­ter­izes his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, and that the Democrats and Repub­li­cans are some­how en­ti­tled to pass power back and forth no mat­ter how aw­ful or out of touch with the vot­ers they be­come—that we have no choice but to al­ways ac­cept what they give us.

The hunch is that Schultz can do much bet­ter than a John B. An­der­son or a Ross Perot be­cause there is a greater de­mand to­day for some­thing dif­fer­ent than what the Repub­li­cans (Trump) and Democrats (so­cial­ism and toxic iden­tity pol­i­tics) are of­fer­ing up.

And in pol­i­tics, as in all walks of life, sup­ply in­evitably arises to meet de­mand.

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