Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO and potential candidate for the year 2020, was enlightening on Tuesday when it revealed that he was not only responsible for the "extreme left" and "extreme right". He was repeatedly asked to explain his policy of solving America's biggest problems. Schultz proved completely unable to propose new ideas or specific solutions.
His political responses consisted of idle drills, fewer showcases for a potential president and huge television noise.
A spectator asked Schultz what he would do to repair the health system. His answer: "This gives me another opportunity to talk about the extreme left and the extreme right." CNN's Poppy Harlow asked him twice more details to explain what he was doing to overtake American health care. Schultz had no plan.
A resident of Houston, who cited the damage caused to his city by hurricane Harvey, asked Schultz what he intended to do to combat climate change. Schultz reacted by beating the Green New Deal and complaining about the sovereign debt.
A third audience member asked Schultz, a billionaire, how he felt the opinion of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for a marginal tax rate of 70 percent for top earners and what his alternative would be. Schultz described the proposal of the AOC as "punished", but acknowledged that he should personally pay more taxes. Then he refused to say how much: "I do not know what the number should be."
Asked about a well-known occurrence of profiling the breed in a Starbucks, Schultz replied with a line from a Stephen Colbert sketch, "I saw no color as a boy, and I really do not see any color now. "
So it went to topics that range from veterans to the gun control. Since Schultz was not able to talk about politics or ideas, the political scientist Seth Masket called him asthe trump card of the center, "
The event showed that Schultz's candidacy is based on a lie (or more precisely, a series of falsehoods): he apparently believes that a secret majority of Americans long for a centrist candidate who would save them from the two parties. However, this majority does not exist. What Schultz calls "centrism" is a vague repackaging of what the centralist democrats have been proposing for years, a vague ideology that makes sense to a small section of elites but has no mass constituency.
Many of Schultz's answers were partly terrible because he personally was not prepared to be president. But it is also because the ideas he asserted, a sort of "centralized" centrism "unrivaled in any of the parties, exist outside a echo chamber made up of a small number of America's wealthy, educated elite.
The false promise elitist "centrism"
The credo of the elite centrism is that it exists as a slogan "socially liberal, fiscally conservative". It's a kind of easy libertarianism that does not care about same-sex marriage but is deeply worried about public debt.
Very few Americans actually sign this belief structure. Take a look at this chart from a 2017 Democracy Fund survey showing Americans in a quadrant system. The further to the right you are, the more economical you are; The further down, the more socio-liberal. Lower right is the elitist "social liberal, fiscal conservative" quadrant – potential Schultz voters. There are basically none of them:
"Centrist" ideas are the province of the educated, wealthy elite. Apart from membership of the Democratic Party, perhaps the best indicator of social liberalism in America is education: the more educated you are, the more likely you are to be open to things like same-sex marriages and immigration. At the same time, America's elites are wealthy and are therefore more likely to be hit by substantial tax hikes that would affect their bottom line.
Because elites tend to socialize with other elites, they can think that their ideas seem like common sense – and even that people like Howard Schultz can run and win with an independent ticket for the president.
However, these ideas have little in common with most voters, and City Hall demonstrated the delusion at the root of this belief. When asked which centrist ideas could solve the problems that really concern Americans, Schultz had virtually nothing.
Schultz is considering a run as an ideological entrepreneur, as an independent, who would bring new ideas into American politics. That would be really difficult, even if he could have offered new ideas: The partisan duopoly has deep structural reasons. Both the structure of the American electoral system and powerful interest groups support the status quo. Political polarization has divided most Americans into one of the two political parties, with the number of true independents disappearing. It would be very, very difficult to discard this system, even if you offered popular ideas.
Trump was successful as a billionaire politician, because he had found a seam in the Republican coalition – the main voters of the party called for a nacktere racial policy – and exploited them. But he did not run as an Independent: After winning the preschool, he enjoyed the support of a major party and won thanks largely to the support of Republican partisans.
Schultz is unfavorable to the President in this regard. He has none of Trump's dark charisma nor his political instincts for what is popular. He has a number of ideas that seem obvious to him, and a small number of people like him who have no foundation in American intellectual tradition or mass politics. The result is an embarrassing night on national television – one that should cause Schultz to rethink what he does.