Howard Schultz takes book tour to Sixth & I

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he doesn’t feel at home in the Democratic Party “as a centrist person.”
Photo by Bruce Guthrie

Selling himself as a deficit hawk intent on “bringing the country together,” Howard Schultz brought his book tour to Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in front of a sold out crowd Feb. 14.

Schultz went after both Democrats and Republicans, promising attendees that he’d do nothing to help President Donald Trump win re-election, while admonishing the Democratic Party’s leftward shift and pondering a third-party run in 2020. The billionaire said he’d make a decision on whether to the run for president by the end of spring or early summer.

A small group of protesters was outside the synagogue before and after his appearance, holding signs that read, “You’ll be responsible for re-electing Donald Trump” and “Ego over country.”

Schultz, the founder and former CEO of Starbucks, is ostensibly promoting his book, “From the Ground Up.” Schultz, who is Jewish, detailed his hardscrabble upbringing in the Bayview public housing projects of Canarsie, Brooklyn, where he suffered abuse at the hands of his father. At times, his family relied on food deliveries from Jewish Family Services.

But from there, he became the first member of his family to go to college, graduating from Northern Michigan

As he pitched himself as a progressive, labor-friendly corporate CEO, he’s also a moderate, business-friendly candidate lamenting the calls for single-payer health insurance, free college and a stronger safety net coming from a growing sector of the Democratic Party.

He spoke of the growing national debt, which recently surpassed $22 trillion, arguing that the kinds of social programs that progressive Democrats are calling for are simply unaffordable. And, he said, a far-left nominee could guarantee a second term for Trump.

“I worry that if it’s a far-left person, Donald Trump is going to get re-elected,” Schultz said. “I feel the party has gone so far to the left that I don’t feel at home in the party as a centrist person. I just disagree that we can spend $30, $40 trillion on government paid health care, government paid college.

“I want to preserve our democracy and I want to do everything humanly possible not to see Donald Trump become president in 2020.”

For some in attendance though, the idea of Schultz’s third-party candidacy is self-defeating.

Logan Ruppel said he wouldn’t vote for Schultz in a Democratic primary, but that his voice could do more to move the party to the center from within, and there’d be no risk of helping Trump win re-election.

“It’s important to have a centrist voice in the marketplace of ideas happening in a primary,” Ruppel said. “I’d appreciate his voice being there in the conversation, not like, ‘Oh I’m a billionaire, I’m too good
for that.’”

Nick Egelanian echoed the sentiment: If Schultz wants to be taken seriously by Democratic voters who prize defeating Trump over all else, do it from inside the party.

“If your ideas are right, why won’t you get in the ring?” Egelanian asked. “That’s what leaders do. If you’re telling us you’re a leader and that’s your main quality, lead by getting in the ring and showing the party what’s right and what’s wrong.”

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