Never did I imagine having a good feeling toward the founder of Starbucks, that symbol of the corruption of the American palette and character. Yet I am encouraged and impressed by his comments on politics and economics, and intrigued by the idea of Howard Schultz as President.
He strikes me, first off, as having the gravitas and character to pull off a Presidential campaign. His speech is literate, composed and clear. He looks the part and was an extremely successful businessman.
The economic philosophy that Schultz has described combines conservatism on the deficit with concern about inequality. He has, thus far, unambiguously rejected “socialism”, stating clearly his opinion that capitalism alone has achieved sustained income growth for all, and that someone must pay for socialism’s trillion dollar promises. This is a salutary point, considering that the youth who endorse socialism seem to have no idea how it would control work, income and business: to them socialism just means getting more free goodies from government.
Schultz is the only potentially important candidate willing to state clearly that entitlement reform is necessary to slow the growth of the deficit. He is telling Democrats that means less spending and Republicans that it means more progressive taxes. What is attractive about his presentation of these points is that so far he has done so without rancor, slogans or class warfare.
Yet there is the fact that he was CEO of that icon of political correctness Starbucks. Will he remain a centrist of the old-fashioned sort on issues of abortion and euthanasia, freedom to practice religious beliefs, judicial restraint, and rights of the majority to resist being tyrannized by social justice warriors? Or will he go along with the progressives in their campaign to make intolerance for any views but their own the new center?
At this point I know nothing of his views on or ability to deal with national security and foreign policy issues. This is not much of a deficiency relative to the rest of the challengers to President Trump, most of whom are ignorant, extreme or both. If he can articulate a reasoned and realistic middle ground that avoids isolationism, kowtowing to Europeans and the UN, military adventurism, and pacifism, he would indeed have a chance.
A serious centrist third party presidential candidate would provide a critically important insight into the causes of political polarization. The competing theories are that the parties have found ways to polarize a basically centrist America and that American electorate no longer has a middle. If a third party candidate were to win, it would be clear evidence that the first theory is correct. And if a serious, well-financed centrist, third party contender came in far behind in third place, it would not really matter which candidate was helped by his presence. That outcome would validate the second theory and signal a future of wide swings back and forth between Presidents and Congresses at opposite ends of the political spectrum, until one party or the other assumes dictatorial powers.
David Montgomery is retired from a career of teaching, government service and consulting, during which he became internationally recognized as an expert on energy, environmental and climate policy. He has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and also studied economics at Cambridge University and theology at the Catholic University of America, David and his wife Esther live in St Michaels, and he now spends his time in front of the computer writing about economic, political and religious topics and the rest of the day outdoors engaged in politically incorrect activities.