Coffee or the Democratic Party

Coffee or the Democratic Party

The news today is that Howard Schulz, former Starbucks CEO, is contemplating a 2020 presidential run. Schulz, who is about to embark upon a cross-country book tour, plans to use the next three months to evaluate a potential candidacy, and will make a decision later this year. If he runs, Schulz, who is a self-described “lifelong Democrat,” will run as an Independent, having stated,

“Republicans and Democrats alike — who no longer see themselves as part of the far extreme of the far right and the far left — are looking for a home. The word ‘independent,’ for me, is simply a designation on the ballot.”

An interesting thought and a debatable statement, but rather than debating Democrats’ freaked out. The reaction from Democratic Party leaders was immediate, fierce, and frankly quite revealing. Their fears are that a Schulz candidacy will split the electorate, specifically the Democratic-leaning, anti-Trump portion of the population, and in doing so will tilt the election toward the Republican nominee (presumably Trump, although at this point that’s still unclear). In response to Schulz testing the waters, the chairwoman of Washington State’s Democratic Party, Tina Podlowski, said, “I have two words for Howard Schultz on a potential run for president as an independent: Just don’t.”

Tina, here are a few words for you — If Democrats can’t come up with a candidate and platform to defeat the diarrhea stain that 4-years of a Trump Presidency will have smeared across the country, then you don’t deserve to win in 2020, and arguably forever. Yes, I’m imagining a lifetime ban worthy of Pete Rose (and if we’re being candid — after the flub-fest that was the 2016 election, you should be thankful we’re still on talking terms.). Further, if in 2020 voters move away from the Democratic Party because Schulz is saying things that speak better to their needs and visions of the country, then that’s good on him and woe on you. In other words, a potential Schulz campaign wouldn’t be the reason you lost — such would be the result of your candidates and policies. 

Tina and the Dems don’t want Schulz to run because they don’t want a third party challenging left leaning voters’ loyalty, although it’s unlikely they would complain if a conservative third party came along and split the Republican vote. From this you can conclude that their eyes are not focused on what’s best for the country, but on what’s best for their obtaining and perpetuating Power. A fine enough position, if you’re of the Roger Stone mindset, and certainly not surprising by any means. Understandable even, in its way. But admirable? At what stage in your child’s development would you teach her this valuable lesson? And think for a moment about the end game of converting politics to a zero-sum grab-all… Ugh. Or don’t, because it’s pretty depressing. Fortunately, pitchers and catchers report for spring training in exactly 2-weeks. 

To stick with sports for a second — Democrats’ preemptively anxious concerns about Schulz splitting the electorate remind me of what psychologists call self-handicapping. This is when, before we start our 5k race, I complain about how sore my achilles is; if I subsequently lose the race, well, damn that pesky heel I told you about earlier…

An even more absurd response to Schulz’s announcement came from Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, who wrote on Twitter: “If he [Schulz] enters the race, I will start a Starbucks boycott because I’m not giving a penny that will end up in the election coffers of a guy who will help Trump win.”

First of all, if Schulz decides to run he’ll be doing it to win himself, not to “help Trump win,” a statement so terribly construed and intentionally unclear that the most generous interpretation should call it meaningless, except that we know it’s actual content is more of a whining, Howie isn’t getting in line and playing the way I want him to play! Wah-wah, Neera. 

More importantly, A Starbucks boycott? What are you talking about, lady? For starters, Neera, here’s a thing any Seattleite will tell you — friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks. But for real, I wouldn’t ask your average American to choose between her morning cup of coffee and the Democratic Party — coffee is one of life’s greatest pleasures, while the other lost an election to Donald Fucking Trump! Further, as a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, the latter known — as far as the specifics of this essay are concerned — as the candidate who lost to Donald Fucking Trump!, I would suggest that your advising skills, and thus your political opinions  — to say nothing about your coffee recommendations — are highly suspect.

Democratic leaders — yes, a Schulz campaign could be a challenge, but challenges are not by definition negative. In fact, if you’re smart about them they can be very positive. More on that in a second. As for the anxiety of your responses — I get it. You already lost once, and to Donald Fucking Trump! at that. Further, if there were an election tomorrow, I don’t think anyone can convincingly argue that you wouldn’t lose again. Let me step into your shoes for just a minute: If I couldn’t defeat a man who brags about grabbing women’s pussies, who has locked children in cages, who publicly lies on average 11-times/day, to the point that it’s virtually impossible to distinguish between what comes out of his mouth and his asshole, I’d be anxious too. In fact, I’d be so anxious I’d probably start wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. I might even began to fear that no one really wanted me around (hint: many of us don’t). But you’re here, so let me make the following suggestion:

Welcome a Schulz run. Do it in the same way that you’d welcome a Warren run or a Biden run or a Beto run or a Bloomberg run. Welcome a Schulz run in the same way that you’ll welcome whoever runs on the Republican side. Praise Schulz’s courage and independence and thoughtfulness, and look forward to debating him on the important issues our country faces today.

Why? — because elections, like governing, training for a 5k or writing an essay — are an active process of refining. The more challengers you have the more opportunities there are to refine, improve, and enhance positions and policies until they’re the ones best suited to serve our country. And remember, recent behaviors aside, that’s what we elect you to do — to serve our country well. 

It’s old wisdom that iron sharpens iron — if you view Schulz as a highly accomplished, experienced and progressive businessman upon whom you can hone your selves, you might end up with a sharper and more incisive message and candidate than the ones you used last time, which, in case you forgot, lost to Donald Fucking Trump! Further, you’ll definitely get a better result than you will when you ask voters to choose between their morning coffee and you.


Dear Reader, I know what you’re probably thinking — this Aaron guy needs a solid kick in the realpolitik pants. Maybe I do. As I’ve written before, I voted for Hillary last time around (admittedly with my nose pinched), and as I hope I’ve made clear here and elsewhere  — I don’t like Trump one bit. Still, just because I find Democrats generally (and only slightly) preferable to Republicans doesn’t mean Democrats should receive my thoughtless support, and it also doesn’t mean we should close off our politics to third, fourth, fifth…, parties. 

Also, I meant very sincerely the opinions I expressed in the last paragraphs above — the only way for Democrats, or any individual or group or party, to get better, and in doing so better meet the needs, desires and visions of our country, is for us to hold their feet to the fire. The reason we critique and criticize and admonish is to make our leaders better. Put another way — if liberals were to treat the Democratic Party leadership as harshly as they go after Trump and Republicans, they’d make a better Democratic Party. I can’t guarantee I’d like ’em, but like I say every year about the Seattle Mariners, I’d love it if you gave me a reason to take you seriously.

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