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Reblogged:Howard Schultz, the Esperanto Candidate

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Next to Kamala Harris's unsurprising, Obama-eque campaign kickoff, the chattering classes are occupying themselves the most by asking whether former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz might help re-elect Donald Trump by running as an independent. I agree with this Atlantic piece that that's a possibility, mainly because Schultz appeals to what had been Hillary Clinton's base within the Democratic party. (Some disagree.)

But that's where my agreement with the Atlantic ends. I'm with Schultz that (as the piece implies he thinks) the parties are basically the same but that's about it. (Sorry, Mr. Dovere, but strident bickering among people who fundamentally agree that the government should run everything is hardly a "stark" contrast.)

Indeed, I regard Schultz's solution, summarized below by the piece, as vapid, regardless of the merit of his other political positions:

Image via Wikimedia Commons, taken by Adam Bielawski
Schultz, a lifelong Democrat, would run under the theory that the answer to the political division in the country right now is moving away from party politics. There's little evidence to support that, as people report being more polarized and partisan, devoted to their own party and demonizing the other. For all the prominent Republicans who say they don't like Trump, the president's overall approval numbers among voters within his party remain sky high, according to polls. Schultz would have to persuade millions of them to abandon the party to vote for him, while drawing enough Democratic votes away from a party that is energized and excited about taking out the president. [bold added]
And no one can explain why it is vapid better than Ayn Rand, who noted in 1962 that, "To change the trend, one must work to create an enlightened electorate. And one must begin by realizing that elections are won in every month of the year -- except November." (bold added) The trend in question, which can't go on forever, is of politicians avoiding saying anything of substance, and of voters helping them along by pretending they are hearing anything important.

Rand hints at the magnitude of the task Schultz fancies taking on. And she identifies its nature, which the writer at the Atlantic fails to grasp -- although he still thinks Schultz is tilting at windmills:
A politician's first concern is to get elected -- without which he cannot achieve his goals, whether they are noble or ignoble, whether he is a crusading idealist or a plain ward-heeler.

If the voters approach elections with nothing better than the desperate feeling that "somebody ought to do something," if they evade or ignore political principles -- a politician will follow suit. (Which is why our age is not distinguished by the great stature of its political leaders.)

An election campaign is not the time to teach people the fundamentals of political theory, and a candidate is not a teacher. He can only try to cash in on such ideas as he believes the people to hold. He is not the cause of political trends, he is their product.

Who, then, is the cause? The country's intellectuals.

The study and definition of political theory is a full-time job. Just as all people cannot be automobile manufacturers, but can judge and select which car they wish to buy, so they cannot be political philosophers, but can judge the theories presented to them and form their own convictions accordingly. It is on this crucial responsibility that modern intellectuals have defaulted.

The dreary clowning of today's election campaigns originates in our college classrooms. The evasive mess -- a mixture of Marx, Keynes and moral cowardice -- taught in most classes of political science, would make our candidates look like paragons of frankness and precision, by comparison.

The people know that something is terribly wrong in today's world and that they are given no choice. But how can they make themselves heard? They are not in the profession of "opinion-making."

They sense, but cannot identify, that the real issue under all the evasions is: capitalism versus socialism. But that is the issue which neither the "liberals" nor the "conservatives" dare face or discuss.

The people are taking the only way out, still open to them: the protest vote. Predominantly, they are voting, not for anything, but against it. The trend in most semi-free countries, notably in England, is to keep voting out whoever is in. It is a temporary means to prevent the entrenchment of a single clique in power. ("The Season of Platitudes", reprinted in The Ayn Rand Column, pp. 50-51.)
Even if Schultz were truly different from what the two parties offer, the electorate isn't ready to hear him, and it isn't as if the question of (effectively) forming a third party has never been asked. (Spoiler alert: It's a great way to make sure you have zero influence on one of the two coalitions that our political system naturally organizes itself into.)

To summarize: Whatever Schultz offers, he won't affect the debate in either party. He's sure to appeal to somebody, so he might siphon off some votes and possibly tip the election one way or the other. But since every electable politician sees no problem with central planning or the entitlement state, it's anyone's guess as to whether the eventual winner will matter all that much -- if we're lucky.

It would be nice if all we needed to do to fix the world's problems was speak the same language, but people often disagree about things for good reasons. And sometimes, when practically everyone is wrong, there is much to be said for anything -- even including bickering -- that distracts them from getting their way. See also the checks and balances system created by our founders.

-- CAV

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