Over the past week, it’s fair to say Democrats have seemed, well, overly caffeinated.
Howard Schultz, the billionaire former CEO of Starbucks, has the left apoplectic since floating the idea that he is seriously considering running for president — as an independent.
Since Schultz embarked on his media tour, Democrats from all directions have come out to torpedo the political newcomer and self-proclaimed lifelong Democrat.
With visions of Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and Jill Stein dancing maniacally in their heads, no doubt, Democrats’ fears that Schultz will take votes away from their nominee in 2020 aren’t unfounded. That’s usually the way a third-party candidacy goes: They don’t just appeal to first-time voters, they cut into another party’s pie, too. Just ask Hillary Clinton, if you can get her to stop seething. In her book “What Happened,” the 2016 Democratic nominee said Stein “wouldn’t be worth mentioning” if not for the important votes she got in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Clinton blamed a “small but significant number of left-wing voters” who “may well have thrown the election to Trump.”
The Democrats’ reaction to Schultz, though, doesn’t just reveal their angst over what could have been in 2016 (and indeed in 2000) or their paranoia over what should be in 2020. It’s illustrative of a larger problem both parties are facing:
Voters are sick of them, and they know it.
Faith in most American institutions is down, but in particular voters don’t believe our two-party system is working. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, 57 percent of Americans say our two parties do such a poor job that a third party is needed. Only 38 percent say the two parties do an adequate job. That’s almost the mirror opposite of what the results were in 2003, when Gallup first started polling the question and 56 percent said the two-party system was good enough and 40 percent disagreed.
It’s not surprising, then, that we’re decreasingly aligning with the far left and right. In a Pew poll from 2018, Americans on average put themselves near the midpoint on an ideological scale. If 0 is “very liberal” and 10 is “very conservative,” most put themselves at around a 5.
Naturally, the parties’ response to this disaffection is to quite literally force American voters into picking one or the other — and, typically, to drag their candidates further to the extremes during their primaries.
The Democrats’ all-out assault against Schultz, who has yet to officially announce, is already underway. Influential groups like American Bridge, Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Priorities USA have already publicly threatened to make Schultz a target and oppose him with full force.
Democratic candidates like Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren wasted no time in attacking Schultz, with Warren tweeting, “What’s ‘ridiculous’ is billionaires who think they can buy the presidency to keep the system rigged for themselves while opportunity slips away for everyone else.”
And some in the liberal press are also working overtime to smear the would-be candidate. In a bizarre hit piece, Timothy Burke in the Daily Beast revealed that Starbucks, under Schultz, “which sold music alongside coffee from 1994 to 2015, had, what could only be described as, a flat and white selection of tunes to offer.”
Of course, if Schultz runs, he isn’t likely to make the debate stage, and that’s by design of both parties. Since 2000, the Commission on Presidential Debates has required candidates to appear on enough state ballots to win and register at 15 percent in five national polls.
All of this is meant to say to you, the voter, that only Democrats — or, on the other side, Republicans — have the answers to your problems. And if someone wants entrée into the political arena, picking between these two embattled, ill-fitting, underperforming parties is the price of admission. How is that good for us?
Schultz may not be a good candidate. He may prove to be wholly unqualified to be president. But the other two parties shouldn’t get to decide that — you should.