Howard Schultz: From coffee to candidate?

Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks, announced on Twitter that he was considering running for president in 2020 on Jan. 27. Schultz, who was at the helm of Starbucks from 1986-2000 and again from 2008-2017, said that he would run as a centrist independent, believing that our bipartisan system is “broken” and that “our two parties are not working for most Americans.” However, many political theorists believe that his run would split Democratic votes and almost certainly guarantee a second term for U.S. President Donald Trump. It has also been cited by individuals, such as Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman, as potentially disastrous to the American executive branch as establishing a norm of having non-career politicians, in the guise of Trump, making serious bids for the presidency.


In a time when our two-party political system is starkly divided, the desire for middle-ground independent candidates is certainly understandable. Today, the divisions between Democrats and Republicans are more pronounced than ever before — especially concerning race, gender, and socioeconomic class. Politics have become entangled with personal values, guiding America into an age of political polarization. Many politicians’ reluctance to work across party lines poses a threat to the democratic process in our country. We need more politicians who are willing to negotiate across the aisle and create bipartisan legislation. Regardless of affiliation, it is imperative that politicians place country over party and aim to achieve the betterment of the nation for all citizens.


But it’s just that — we need them to be politicians, not just anyone who thinks they have an agenda that American voters might like. The president needs the political experience to work within the two-party system that will inevitably continue to dominate Congress. The two-party system has proved to be greatly effective for decades, and it is not this system that inherently poses a threat; politics begs for contrasting opinions and heated debate. The danger lies in how radically different each party’s vision of America’s future has become and the overall inability to reach a middle ground.


Schultz has established himself as a skilled leader, captivating speaker, and charismatic personality through his work at Starbucks. However, he lacks proper political experience – being able to navigate the business world has no bearing on being able to navigate running the most powerful country in the world. Nevertheless, his fusion of economic conservatism and social liberalism is enticing for voters whose views do not align with the current polarized environment. Therefore, there may be a place for Schultz in American politics. However, before making a bid for the Oval Office, he should be expected to earn his recognition and political credibility as a leader of the people, not just those who value their lattes venti or grande. The title of “billionaire” should never be considered a qualifier for any office in our nation’s government, especially not the most powerful.


We also need to be cautious of falling into a pattern of electing non-career politicians to high government office. This country needs more, not less, professionalism, and it is time to elect an intelligent, competent, and rational candidate.


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