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Schultz is a Problem. Is He?

Howard Schultz is a major problem. This is what I’ve been hearing from people for weeks. The media has been saying it. Friends who were devastated by Al Gore’s loss in the 2000 presidential election have been saying it. People angered by Clinton’s loss in 2016. And I was on board with all of them…until last night.

Did you watch the Schulz Presidential Town Hall on CNN? If not, check it out here. Throughout the entire thing I kept turning to my husband saying, “This guy is a problem,” repeating the mantra that’s been born out over weeks. And about two thirds of the way through I started to wonder, maybe this guy is the solution.

Americans seem exhausted by politics. People in office, holding onto it for dear life, as if it was ever meant to be a career option. Apparently, at the onset of this country, our “founding fathers” (I hate that term, but you know who I’m talking about when I say it) dreaded being elected into office. It took them away from their families, their homes, and their businesses. But they went to SERVE. And when their term was up, the majority returned home, happy to have a successor take over their seat.

Now we have a group of incredibly powerful, wealthy individuals who hold their seats in our elected government hostage. Technology and their immense wealth has created a pathway for them to continue to operate their business and visit their home and families often while in office, thus removing incentives to vacate their seats to fresh minds and faces.

Our political system has been corrupted by people on both sides of the aisle looking to create policy that serves their interests and the interests of those like them. Lobbying is out of control. Campaign finances are unchecked due to deregulations passed in the last few years. I understand that a lot of Americans felt forgotten and unheard and our current president played to those feelings, but what is happening in our country isn’t serving anyone who isn’t so wealthy they don’t need the help anyway.

I really like a lot of things I’m hearing from the Democratic 2020 candidates. Many of them are refusing to take money from super PACs or large corporations. They seem to want to change the system. BUT, they are all also senior players in politics. They too have held their seats for multiple terms. Do they want to make the changes they’re suggesting? I want to believe so. But I’m also worried that they’re playing into the desires of those who oppose the current administration.

Schultz, on the other hand, is a billionaire with no political experience and no need to take on this kind of responsibility. He doesn’t seem narcissistic like the current president, though I think there must be some level of that to create and run a massive multi-billion-dollar business, but it doesn’t have to be toxic.

In his town hall, Schultz presents himself as another American sick and tired of the partisan bullshit. While I didn’t hear as many specifics as I would have liked, I also recognize that CNN gave an hour long special to a guy who hasn’t even declared he’s running yet. What I did hear is that at the foundational level, he’s in support of a lot of the same things I’m in support of. There was a genuine-ness to his responses. Maybe the words of a well-practiced CEO, maybe also the words of a guy who just wants truth back in his country.

Schultz is a guy who ran a company that was the first to offer tuition coverage to all its employees, regardless of their full or part time status. He also provided healthcare, paid time off, parental leave, stock options, commuter benefits, and a financial crisis fund. Running a country is not the same as running a business, but I’m looking at the values a CEO must have to invest the resources to provide these kinds of benefits and those values would serve a president well.

He’s far from perfect and really needs to beef up the specifics of all his feel-good messages. I was also really turned off by his “I don’t see color” comment when discussing racial injustice. For a guy who invested in the top racial equity professionals in this country to develop a training for his employees after the Philadelphia Starbucks arrest incident, I was stunned to hear him use such tone-deaf language. It gave me pause about all the other messaging I was hearing.

At the end of the day, I don’t really know what to think. Schultz is a billionaire with no political experience whatsoever. But he’s created a globally successful business while honoring and rewarding the people that make it possible for him to be as successful as he is, his employees. Maybe in our hindsight views of politics, Schultz represents a problem, a spoiler candidate. But in our current political reality, maybe someone with his set of skills is exactly what we need to re-envision our country.

As usual, I have no idea what the answer is and I imagine my viewpoint will change many times over in the coming months, but as is the case with nearly all I write about, there is no clarity on this issue and no way to definitively identify how Schultz will play out in the upcoming election (if he even actually runs!).

#howardschultz2020 #spoilercandidate #problemorsolution

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