The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Why Democrats Won’t Embrace Starbucks’s Howard Schultz

Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Howard Schultz, pictured with images from the company’s new “Race Together” project behind him, speaks during the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting in Seattle, Washington, March 18, 2015. (David Ryder/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: All the reasons why retiring Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shouldn’t run for president in 2020; the Trump-NFL fight enters its 16th minute of fame; and a sharp mind explains why you shouldn’t worry about the Obama-Netflix deal.

Howard’s End

I hope soon-to-retire Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz chooses to run for president, because I really want to measure the appeal of a “woke corporate executive” in the Democratic primary.

Schultz’s decision to retire, a plan he said he privately outlined to the board a year ago, will most likely stoke speculation that he is considering a run for president in 2020. He is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for the Democratic Party and has become increasingly vocal on political issues, including criticizing President Trump last year as “a president that is creating episodic chaos every day.”

While Mr. Schultz, 64, typically bats away speculation about his political ambitions with an eye roll or a pithy answer, on Monday he acknowledged for the first time that it is something he may consider.

“I want to be truthful with you without creating more speculative headlines,” he told The New York Times. “For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country — the growing division at home and our standing in the world.”

My guess is the appetite for a leftist culture warrior with experience in corporate boardrooms is extremely limited, even among Democrats.

What we’re seeing in Schultz — in his hints about his future plans — is not all that different from the mentality that drove Trump in 2016. Here comes another wealthy, cover-of-a-magazine corporate titan, having done everything in business that he wants to do, and concluding that, in his golden years, he wants to “serve his country” . . . except, after having been in charge of everyone around him for many years, the only way he can conceive of “serving his country” is by running the place.

A lot of accomplished businessmen have chosen to run for president over the decades and ended up spending a fortune — H. Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, Herman Cain, Carly Fiorina. Heck, you might even throw in Mitt Romney, although he had been a governor.

Trump is the grand exception, and he’s a different breed of cat for at least two reasons: Trump was a genuine pop-culture celebrity, well-known far beyond the business world. I suspect that many of America’s corporate chief executives walk around believing they’re famous because everyone they run into has heard of them, they’ve been interviewed on CNBC several times, and they’ve had their pictures in Forbes, BusinessWeek, and the Wall Street Journal. But our balkanized culture generates many different kinds of fame, and “business famous” is not the same as “political famous.” If you want to be famous among Republican primary voters, you had better get your face on Fox News a lot. If you want to be famous among Democratic primary voters, you probably need to get your face on MSNBC a lot.

Howard Schultz is famous . . . but he’s not Mark Cuban famous (Cuban’s got his own reality-TV show and is well-known, if not particularly well-liked, among NBA fans). Schultz’s name isn’t a synonym for wealth like Bill Gates, and he isn’t associated with technology and innovation the way Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are, or perhaps in the way Elon Musk is becoming. He’s not denounced by the president the way Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is. His name hasn’t become shorthand for wise investing like Warren Buffett, and he’s not larger than life like Richard Branson. I’m willing to bet that right now, most of the people who will be voting in the 2020 Democratic primary have no idea who Howard Schultz is, and very few could tell you much more than “he’s the guy who runs Starbucks.”

Secondly, Trump ran against everyone who was in charge, not just during the Obama years but before: corporate America, Establishment Republicans, the Bushes, “the hedge fund guys.” Trump wasn’t impressed with Silicon Valley and had little interest in it beyond Peter Thiel and enjoying Twitter. Trump served as a blank slate and a protest vote for everyone who was dissatisfied with the status quo of 2016. Do you foresee Howard Schultz tapping into that at all? He is the establishment. He endorsed Obama and Hillary Clinton. He was apparently Hillary Clinton’s choice to be secretary of labor if she had won. His job titles since 1987 have been “chief executive officer,” “chief global strategist,” “executive chairman,” and “owner of the Seattle Supersonics.” He’s been among the 500 wealthiest Americans for a decade. Whether Howard Schultz recognizes it or not, his message will be, “Let’s go back to the status quo of 2016, but without the African-American president.”

Forty-two percent of Democrats have a favorable view of socialism. You think Howard Schultz is going to be their guy?

But Schultz is going to run into a lot of people who will encourage him to run — both former employees and friends who don’t want to hurt his feelings, and opportunistic political consultants who see a giant pile of money when he talks.

Beyond that, let’s note that after that incident of a Starbucks store manager calling the cops on young African-American men in the store in Philadelphia, Schultz sent his whole workforce to racial-bias training. He could have argued that the Philadelphia incident wasn’t representative of the company as a whole, and that his employees were good people who didn’t deserve knee-jerk accusations of racism. Instead, everybody got sent to training that included a video in which Schultz “talked about his vision for a more inclusive company and country.”

Picture this comment from Schultz on that day as a preview of him on the campaign trail: “Trying to, as a white person, fully understand as much as possible the fact that a person of color never quite feels comfortable in a public space in America, and hearing it from them, because it’s not something we think about . . . how can we be better people?” Schultz said. “How can we be better citizens? What else can we do to try and advance a feeling of equality in the country?”

We have no idea what the political environment of 2020 will look like. If we have a few more incidents like Charlottesville, perhaps a significant demographic will be groups of white people appalled by the racial views of other white people and looking for a way to demonstrate that opposition at the ballot box. Perhaps a key theme of the cycle will revolve around white guilt. But right now, it’s hard to picture white voters in those heavily white swing states falling in love with a corporate CEO telling them that they don’t understand the experiences of people of color and that they need to be better people.

Trump Loves Fighting with the NFL

President Trump hits the NFL hard for not sufficiently punishing players who kneel during the National Anthem . . . by refusing to meet with a team that didn’t have any players kneel during the National Anthem.

Trump declared on Twitter, “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!”

This fight is now clearly well beyond any argument of what is and what is not appropriate behavior during the National Anthem. This is now about cultural resentment against mostly African-American, well-paid professional athletes. Trump thinks he’s got a good villain, and he’s going to keep fighting his perceived villain until it stops getting him good headlines.

More than a few folks are grumbling this morning about a decision by Fox News to use an image of an Eagles player kneeling . . . during a prayer.

Why the Obama Deal with Netflix Isn’t Worth Your Worry

Christian Toto with an astute assessment of the Obamas’ lucrative deal with Netflix:

We’re already inundated with liberal storytelling — with or without the Obama Netflix deal. Small screen fare (“Supergirl,” “Designated Survivor,” any late night comedy show). Movies (“Truth,” “Miss Sloane”). And the flow shows little sign of stopping . . .

Everything the former First Couple does for Netflix will arrive with a loud and proud label.

The press will offer each new Obama offering all the press coverage possible. That cold truth will be inescapable.

Audiences, in turn, will react accordingly. Those who miss Obama’s two terms will flock to the programming. Their minds won’t be changed by what they see. They’re already on board with the former president’s vision.

Everyone else? Conservatives will mostly avoid the product. Independents may give it a try, but they’ll know going into the experience that it comes with partisan packaging. That instantly lowers the chance of it influencing their points of view.

I don’t particularly like these sorts of liberal prestige projects at premium cable networks, but I also don’t spend much time thinking about them. As I wrote when I saw the promotions for that short-lived Bill Simmons sports-talk series, political correctness has virtually killed “edginess.” Barring some really unexpected turn of events, almost nothing produced by the Obamas will ever surprise us. Quick, imagine the first project from the Obamas on Netflix . . .

A single mom in the inner city, beset by crime and lack of opportunity, is tempted by the opportunity to buy an illegal gun, until a lesbian friend convinces her that she would just become part of the problem that way. The neighborhood minister, who ensures safe access to Planned Parenthood clinics, tells the single mom about a government job-training program that gives her a job in graphic design for a solar-panel manufacturer. The wacky neighbor describes how Obamacare helped him get a new kidney, the abused girl down the street gets an abortion, and the Muslim family on the corner is the victim of hateful graffiti until our lead character unites the neighborhood for a “tolerance rally.” The local cop contemplates busting the troubled teenage son who’s running with the wrong crowd, until he tells the kid, “If I bust you to juvie, I’m setting you on the wrong path for life, and this just isn’t who we are,” and they embrace.

Right? You can picture it all already. Heartwarming in all the wrong ways.

ADDENDA: Breaking last night, the Mueller investigation has confirmed that Russians and Americans in Washington, D.C., have colluded to influence the outcome of . . . the Stanley Cup Finals.


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