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I don't know much about Howard Schultz, and some of what I do know -- that he opened up Starbucks bathrooms to vagrants as a silly exercise in politically correct virtue signaling -- isn't particularly reassuring.

Still, I admit to being more impressed by people who have made their money in the private sector like Schultz than by the kind of pests who run for one public office after another and spend their lives sponging off the taxpayers.

As much as it runs counter to the mushy egalitarianism of our age, I believe most rich people got there because they worked harder, were smarter, took more risks, and had better character than the rest of us.

Capitalism and capitalists actually create wealth by creating useful products and services (even if it comes in the form of coffee shops); socialism and socialists ultimately create nothing but shared misery.

Within this context, as the Democratic Party lurches toward Marx's collectivist utopia it will be interesting to see how they package it for consumption in a country to this point largely immune to the virus. A new, more acute version of the primary/general election problem has likely arrived in which Democrats put on their socialist clothes to woo an increasingly socialist base in the primary and then make sure to stash them in the closet before November.

Given this, one has to appreciate Schultz's skepticism toward his (apparently former) party's array of currently fashionable but thoroughly nutty ideas -- Medicare for all, free college, a 70 percent tax rate, a guaranteed government job, a $15 minimum wage, the Green New Deal, etc. (the list is getting so long as to raise the question of what Democratic ideas these days aren't nutty).

Even more amusing has been the fury on the left that the possibility of a Schultz third-party bid has provoked, as if the problem is him rather than them and he has no right to leave a party that has gone full Mad Hatter. The reaction to Schultz by Democrats ironically proves Schultz's point about what is happening to the Democrats -- as the wannabe Riefenstahl of the radical left, Michael Moore, recently put it, "If you're moderate, stop being moderate."

The basis of the fury in Schultz's case stems not so much from his criticism of the Democrats' leftward lurch but fear that his candidacy would split the Democratic vote and re-elect Donald Trump (as if the kook we know would necessarily be worse than kooks we don't, like Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris).

But what Schultz is counting on is that a plurality of Americans, perhaps a majority, are neither Always Trumpers nor members of the "resistance." If he can play it the right way, defined as credibly presenting himself as a moderate, competent alternative to the unabashed Trotskyite that the Democrats nominate and the unhinged buffoon currently occupying the Oval Office, he might just have a shot.

In 2016, Americans were forced to choose between the two most unpopular presidential nominees in our nation's history, the political equivalents of the evil queen in Snow White and Lex Luthor (minus the intelligence and wit). It is unlikely that what they have witnessed since then, as Trump outrageousness provoked Democratic radicalization, has alleviated that revulsion.

As such, "none of the above" has likely never sounded better to more people.

There are few beliefs more firmly held, based on admittedly vast historical evidence, than that third parties can't succeed in American politics; that the structures and logic of our system discourage their formation by guaranteeing their failure.

In that sense, the belief has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy -- third parties can't win because people don't vote for them because they think they can't win.

But such a belief also constitutes a form of conventional wisdom at a time when a great deal of such wisdom has been thrown out the window -- few thought any European country would vote to leave the European Union, as Great Britain did. And virtually no one thought Trump had a chance to win the GOP nomination, let alone the presidency.

If we are living through a period of rampant populism, as many claim, there would be few more dramatic expressions of it than a rejection of both the major party presidential nominees next time around, in essence, a discarding of the traditional two-party system.

Implicit in the claim that third parties can never succeed is actually some highly dubious, even noxious ideas -- that what has long been must always be, that stasis rather than change best characterizes historical experience, and that the Democrats and Republicans are somehow entitled to pass power back and forth no matter how awful or out of touch with the voters they become -- that we have no choice but to always accept what they give us.

The hunch is that Schultz can do much better than a John B. Anderson or a Ross Perot because there is a greater demand today for something different from what the Republicans (Trump) and Democrats (socialism and toxic identity politics) are offering up.

And in politics, as in all walks of life, supply inevitably arises to meet demand.

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

Editorial on 02/11/2019

Print Headline: Schultz can win (Part I)

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