Howard Schultz’s potential candidacy for the Presidency is an existential threat… we must treat it as such
Back in the dark days right after Trump’s inauguration, I was quite impressed with the emergence of a unified opposition to him and his policies. We first saw it with the Women’s March — remember the “pussy hats.” Then, we saw it emerge in opposition to Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare. That is where the rubber hit the road.
Everywhere politicians went, they were dogged by activists attacking them over their position on healthcare. Mitch McConnell’s office was targeted with a “die in” staged by disability advocates, and he was harassed just about everywhere he went, even at home.
Republicans were afraid to hold town hall meetings in their districts, often cancelling them, to avoid being confronted with activists there.
Literally, the Republicans felt under siege. The result was tangible. Despite having full control of the levers of power, they could not pass their healthcare repeal. Obamacare remains the law of the land, and the resistance deserves credit.
We tried again when Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. There we were less successful. I would argue that the choice of issues mattered. Healthcare was an economic issue that affected the pocketbooks of most Americans. Kavanaugh was a social issue most relevant to social liberals and religious conservatives. The moderates sided with us on healthcare while they sided with the right on Kavanaugh. These results should help inform us in our future strategy.
In any event, the resistance was spectacularly successful. Never would I have guessed that the Republicans would fail in passing their Obamacare repeal, or that they would struggle so mightily to confirm a Supreme Court Justice. But they did. And that’s because the resistance protested.
The tactics of the resistance protesters outraged many Republicans. They decried “Democratic mob rule.” That means that the tactics worked. We cannot afford to be polite when our lives are on the line.
And lives are on the line when politics is involved. Don’t believe me? Ask the families of the 4,424 (as of June 2016) American service-members killed in Iraq. Had Ralph Nader not run for President, and Al Gore consequently won the 2000 election, we likely never would have invaded Iraq. That war has also resulted in over 30,000 Americans wounded, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed.
As Obama once said, elections have consequences.
Thus far in Donald Trump’s presidency, we have been blessed with no major crises. Indeed, just about all the problems Trump has had have been entirely of his own making. He has had to confront no economic crisis as Barack Obama did, and no terrorist attack as George W. Bush did. Whatever you think of their handling of these crises, they were at least ready.
Trump, on the other hand, just had to sit back and not screw things up. He couldn’t even do that. The recent shutdown, which was entirely unnecessary and entirely the result of Trump’s own incompetence, appears to have caused real economic harm to our country at a time we can not well afford it.
Here are the results so far of his Presidency:
- the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which has been remarkably accurate in its assessments of the economic impact of government policies, estimates that the economy is slowing. We might not be entering recession just yet, but the CBO’s 1.7% growth rate estimated for next year is far below the 3–4% Trump promised and that both Clinton and Obama delivered.
- the budget deficit is exploding. As a result, the CBO estimates that the federal debt will reach 93% of GDP over the next ten years. These are historically high levels of debt, and given the slowing economy (detailed above) we won’t be able to grow our way out of this debt.
- the rate of uninsured is rising for the first time since Obamacare was passed. This is directly the result of policies the Trump administration has undertaken in an effort to undermine the system.
- your taxes will be going up. The tax cuts for individuals that were used to help sell the 2017 tax act last year will expire over the next few years. The tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, by the way, remain in effect under that law.
Some might say that economics is not a life or death struggle. Tell that to a family that lost their home in the Great Recession of 2008. But even beyond that, economics drives politics, not vice versa.
For instance, the economic crisis in Germany after World War I led directly to the rise of Hitler. Arguably, the economic insecurity of Americans since the Great Recession helped lead to Trump’s election. As Lloyd Blankfein said,
“Too much of the GDP over the last generation has gone to too few of the people,” he told CBS. “[Income inequality is] responsible for the divisions in the country. The divisions could get wider. If you can’t legislate, you can’t deal with problems. [If] you can’t deal with problems, you can’t drive growth and you can’t drive the success of the country. It’s a very big issue and something that has to be dealt with.”
Blankfein, by the way, is no liberal. He’s the former chairman of Goldman Sachs, and a billionaire.
So what is the point of all this? Trump has made it clear that he is intent on increasing income inequality, not reducing it. That has been the impact of all his economic policies, including his tax cuts and his attacks on Obamacare. If we care about our nation’s stability, as Blankfein said, something needs to be done about this. Obviously, given Trump’s policies, what has to be done about it is the removal of Trump and his Republican lackeys from office.
I have previously written that there is much cause of optimism for the Democrats. Trump’s historically low approval ratings, which continue to drop, provide us with an opportunity to set the ship right.
There are two things that could screw us up. First would be the Democrats joining the traditional circular firing squad, insisting upon ideological purity for its candidates, and thus putting us far outside the mainstream. The odds of that happening seem minimal considering how unified Democrats appear to be, how disciplined they were in the 2018 midterm election, and how from a policy perspective, most Americans agree with our economic agenda.
The second risk is the entry of a third-party candidate who takes away enough votes that Trump can win re-election with just the support of his 30–40% hard-core supporters. Remember, what matters is not the overall margin he wins or loses by. What matters is which states he wins. And the Republicans have a built-in advantage given the additional weight small states receive at the Electoral College. Indeed, he need only win the red states he is going to win anyway, and then a few swing states, like Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which can be taken with only the shift of a small percentage of the vote. Consider the impact of Jill Stein in 2016 or Ralph Nader in 2000. That could happen again. It is not by accident that only once in the last five presidential elections has the Republican candidate won a majority of the vote, but yet they have held office three of those times.
The potential candidacy of Howard Schultz presents just such a risk. He is a social liberal, so his impact on Trump’s base is likely to be minimal. He might be able to peel away enough votes from the Democratic candidate that he allows Trump to win.
This risk has not been lost on Democrats. Indeed, there has been a strong outcry in opposition. Schultz, however, as a billionaire, lives in a bubble. We need to break through that bubble to show him how outraged we are.
This is where the resistance comes in. Just as we dogged those members of Congress and Mitch McConnell, so too do we need to follow Schultz everywhere. Anywhere he goes, he must be exposed to the “Democratic mob.” He must be shouted down, not allowed to speak anywhere. He must realize that if he runs, we will make his life hell. Unless we do that, he might continue to think that this is just another fun game that billionaires can engage in.
The risks are high. Just as we fought the health care repeal and the Kavanaugh nomination, it is time for the resistance to rise again. This time, our mission should be to chase Howard Schultz out of the presidential race.
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