As I was watching Howard Schultz on 60 Minutes last night, I couldn’t help but think about how so many people with the best of intentions just do not understand how politics works. And those with the largest egos inevitably fuck things up for the rest of us.
The thing about politics is, to be successful and beneficial to the country as a whole requires a delicate balance between ego and public service. To be successful, you have to believe you can win, but the fact of the matter is, you also have to be able to ask yourself whether what you’re doing is for the benefit of the American people.
There is another thing, too. You have to remember that humans are ultimately tribal in nature. That’s why, as soon as there was politics, we broke off into political parties. Those who think of themselves as “independents” haven’t been paying attention to the political realities of the United States. In our nearly 250-year history, no one has been able to run for president as an “independent” and win. Ever. No one has even come close. Even the enormously popular Teddy Roosevelt couldn’t do it a century ago. Ross Perot had a strong personality and couldn’t do it. Ralph Nader couldn’t even manage to get the meager five percent he was shooting for, and he had been popular for more than three decades. However, all independent candidates have on some level served as spoilers.
Howard Schultz sounds like a reasonable, well-meaning guy, but his political thought process is not only wrong, but it could very well give us a second term of Donald Trump, which he claims is the last thing he wants.
Again, we’re tribal. In any election, one can count on roughly 75–80 percent of voters only considering candidates from one of the two major parties. That leaves 20–25 percent who will even entertain a vote for a “third party” or “independent.” In a democratic system, it’s not possible to win with that. You can only be a spoiler. And while Howard Schultz is quite amiable, at this point in our history, it is difficult to imagine him starting any sort of “centrist insurgency” and getting people excited enough to give up their tribal tendencies and vote for an “outsider,” especially since that “outsider” will be saying the same thing the Democratic nominee will be saying.
If Howard Schultz really wants to be president, if he thinks he can make a difference, he should run for the Democratic nomination, not as an “independent.” He has been a Democrat all his life; there is no reason he should abandon the party at a time when this country’s democracy is on the shakiest ground ever. It’s gotten so bad, the Republican Party has announced measures to prevent anyone from opposing Trump for the 2020 nomination, even if his “presidency” lasts that long.
Schultz’s stated reasons for running as an “independent” seem kind of mealy-mouthed and made no sense. Yes, the two political parties are farther apart than ever before, but the people are not. We all know people from the other party and we all manage to get along most of the time. Also, the reason the parties are so far apart is because the Republican Party has gone too far right to be recognizable as American.
The Democratic Party is still the Party of the People, and it can count as its base People of Color, LGBTQ people, recent immigrants, and most (non-white) women. The Republican Party has spent the last half-century recruiting the worst elements of our populace into their ranks and allowed them to take over. Republicans nominated Trump and supported him unflinchingly. Democrats would never nominate someone like that. If you doubt that, Google “Lyndon LaRouche.”
Now, there is no doubt that the Republican Party is dying, but they’re not dead yet. If Schultz’s ego has convinced him that he has to become president, he can wait until the GOP is gone, and he can found a new “Second Party” to replace it. Running right now is purely an ego-driven vanity exercise that can only benefit Trump, which should be the last thing Schultz wants. He’s against Medicare for All, which he claims “the Democrats” are for, which is not true. He slams Trump and the GOP for their stance on climate change, while the Democrats have always done everything they could to attempt to mitigate, against the obstruction of the Republicans.
In other words, if Howard Schultz wants to make changes in the government, let him run for local or state office. No one should START their political career by running for president. Nothing good can come of it. If you doubt that, look at the illiterate schmuck sitting in the Oval Office now. And consider that “Independent” Nader gave us two terms of George W. Bush, “Independent” John Anderson likely hurt Jimmy Carter and, while Ross Perot famously siphoned equal numbers of votes from both parties in 1992, the Democratic Party is a much larger party.
Independent candidates always siphon more votes away from Democrats, and we really can’t afford that, so Mr. Schultz, with all due respect, put aside your immense ego and do what’s best for the country.
Originally published at The Pragmatic Progressive.