A small disclaimer: I don’t frequent Starbucks. If I’m not making coffee at home or work, I’m buying it at 5 Points Coffee. But, the current hullabaloo over Howard Schultz isn’t about one egotist’s desire to be president, it’s about the media’s desire to create phenomena by outmaneuvering each other in covering and perpetuating divisive stories.
I doubt very much if Schultz’s name will ever appear on a ballot. Even if it does, I’m not entirely certain he would pull only voters who’d otherwise vote Democratic. After all, those so strenuously opposed to the rapidly gaining notion of Medicare-for-all, and who trope out hallmark phrases from the conservative lexicon to describe progressive ideas like universal healthcare as “un-American,” like Schultz has, aren’t exactly heroes to today’s Democratic Party. To say nothing of the fact that old, white, rich males who’ve never held elective office don’t exactly have a rich history winning Democratic votes. Yet, the media will continue to push the Shultz-for-president, and Shultz-is-angering-Democrats reports because too many members of the national mainstream media are intellectually lazy and creatively bankrupt. Thus, we get reporting that is intended to anger some segment of the populace, create stories out of non-stories, and fail to give us actual analyses of things like the historically inept success rate for conservative economic policies. Instead, we hear about the supposed belligerence of Black Lives Matter, and stories ad infinitum about a president’s birth certificate as if repeating a fallacy will itself make for good journalism. Media obsession is almost circular in its logic.
This phenomenon is not new. In fact it’s much like the way the media was frothing (coffee term used intentionally) in the run up to the 2012 election over the notion that another self-absorbed, egocentric billionaire named Donald Trump might run for president. Trump was floating the idea of running for president then to gain more attention, and my guess is that Schultz is doing the same now. After all, he is selling a book. Of course the media’s fawning over Trump in 2012 surely helped plant the seed in his mind that he could actually run for president. So, thank you national media.
Wealth alone should not be a qualification for elective office, as the inordinate coverage of Schultz comes close to implying. Nor should it be a disqualification, for if it were the first and third best presidents of the 20th century would’ve been barred and policies like Social Security or union rights, and the introduction of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a steady hand at the helm during the Cuban Missile Crisis would never have happened. But threats to Social Security, unions, or basic civil rights aren’t as exciting as a story about a famous rich guy who wants to be more famous.
So why is Schultz getting this giant platform? You see, the media really, really likes rich people. Otherwise a man who has actual policy ideas and has held elective office in Washington for decades with a reliably progressive voting record would be getting better coverage. Instead, since Sherrod Brown isn’t a multimillionaire, he gets short shrift and compartmentalized simply as rumpled or unpolished. After all, there’s nothing that the national media likes better than establishing compartments for people and not letting the lids come off once they’ve labeled a person in one way or another. But that’s just one of their obsessions.