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Taking Howard Schultz seriously


Jon Chait with a good and alarming take on the potential consequences of Howard Schultz’s egomania:

Schultz appears to be one of those rich people who has confused his success in one field with a general expertise in every other field that interests him. His apparently sincere belief that he can be elected president is the product of a sincere civic-minded commitment to the public good and an almost comic failure to grasp how he might accomplish this. That confusion is probably being spread by his hired staffers, whose financial incentive, conscious or otherwise, is to encourage him to embark on a costly political fiasco. . .

The reality is that a Schultz candidacy probably would draw more support from the Democrats than from Trump. Schultz has liberal views on a wide array of social issues, like immigration, gay rights, and racial justice. These cultural issues form the main basis for the polarization of the electorate. To the extent that anything has scrambled the culture-war polarization, it is Trump’s lightning-rod personality.

But this fact simply underscores the degree to which anybody who isn’t Trump simply divides the anti-Trump vote. Even conservative Republicans like John McCain and John Kasich saw their support soar among Democrats, and plummet among Republicans, because they positioned themselves in opposition to Trump. The dominant issue in American politics in 2020 is going to be Trump, and even a relatively conservative splinter candidate will tend to draw from the anti-Trump side.  . . .

The explanation for his confidence is surely Schultz’s belief that whatever skills enabled him to sell a lot of coffee would somehow translate into mastering a political system he barely understands. History sometimes hinges on small contingencies.

It is entirely possible that the course of American history will turn on Howard Schultz’s egomaniacal ignorance.

Now Schultz’s campaign will probably go nowhere, but every single electoral factor that pushes the needle toward Trump being re-elected needs to be resisted.  In that spirit, I present to you ten minutes of oppo research, courtesy of me and Google:

Howard Schultz explaining how a working class Jewish kid from a family where nobody had ever gone to college, and who grew up in the Brooklyn projects, ended up attending Northern Michigan University, on the shores of Lake Superior, and thus approximately seventeen parsecs from Brooklyn, both geographically and culturally:

My biggest triumph in high school was becoming quarterback, which made me a Big Man on Campus among the 5,700 students of Canarsie High. The school was so poor that we didn’t even have a football field, and all our games were away games. Our team was pretty bad, but I was one of the better players on it.

One day, a recruiter came to scout an opposing player at one of our games. I didn’t know he was there. A few days later, though, I received a letter from what, in my frame of reference, sounded like another planet, Northern Michigan University. They were recruiting for the football team. Was I interested? I whooped and hollered. It felt as good as an invitation to the NFL draft.

Northern Michigan eventually offered me a football scholarship, the only offer I got. Without it, I don’t know how I could have realized my mother’s dream of going to college.

During spring break of my last year in high school, my parents drove me to see this unimaginable place. We drove nearly a thousand miles to Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We had never been outside New York, and my parents were caught up in the adventure of it. We drove across wooded mountains, through vast stretches of flat fields, past huge lakes that looked like oceans. When we finally arrived, the campus looked like an America I had seen only in the movies, with budding trees, laughing students, flying frisbees.

I was out of Brooklyn at last.

Hmmm. There’s something kind of off about this story.  Northern Michigan is and was a Division II football program, meaning it’s very small time compared to the stuff you see on TV. The idea that it had a “recruiter” (this would be a coach, right? Why not say “a coach?”) scouting a football game in the Carnasie area of Brooklyn in 1971 — not exactly a hotbed of high school football, either then or now — sounds questionable.   Let’s look around a bit.  Oh lookie here:

In high school I played football, and I saw the sport as a potential path out of the projects. In 1971, I arrived at Northern Michigan University—a world away from Canarsie—with the hope of getting a football scholarship, but it never materialized. I stayed at NMU and paid my way through school with student loans and part-time jobs. I even sold my blood for cash when things got really tough.

In 1975, I became the first in my family to graduate college. Unfortunately, my parents could not afford to attend the graduation ceremony, but I knew my mother was proud.

Okey dokey.  By itself this isn’t exactly the same thing as getting underage Russian hookers to [redacted], but this is literally the only thing I’ve ever checked out about this guy, and it turns out to be a lie that he himself cops to after the fact. What else in his autobiography is made up?

For example, this would seem to merit further inquiries:

During my childhood, I never dreamed of working in business. The only entrepreneur I knew was my uncle, Bill Farber. He had a small paper factory in the Bronx, where he later hired my father as a foreman.

OK kid, you grew up in the projects, but mom’s brother owned a factory. How exactly did you pay out of state tuition at NMU? (ETA: While in-state tuition was dirt cheap in the early 1970s, out of state tuition would have been a huge barrier to the typical working class kid, especially considering he could have gone to a New York state system school for next to nothing at that time).  Could Mom really not afford to go to your graduation, even with a little help from Uncle Bill? Especially considering:

I loved the freedom and the open space of college, although I felt lonely and out of place at first. I made some close friends my freshman year and ended up rooming with them for four years, on and off campus. Twice I sent for my brother and he flew out to visit.

You get the idea.

I don’t think this guy is ready for prime time.

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