The opium den was where men escaped. The coffee house was where they talked politics. In one, they made history and in the other, they hid. Howard Schultz owes it to coffee and American democracy to do better than release an insipid letter on the failure of leadership in Washington.
This weekend, over the signature of Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, he placed full page advertisement announcing to Americans that he and another 100 business leaders were going to go on strike as campaign donors until the President and Congress ended their partisan deadlock and agreed on a short-terms stimulus package and a long-term plan to reduce the US deficit. He endorsed the “No Labels” non-partisan movement and urged other Americans to tell Washington to put “citizenship ahead of partisanship.”
If a paralyzed Obama presidency proves to be the beginning of the end for American leadership, Schultz’s letter will rank as a telling contribution. Sure, the Tea Party has been disruptive. But, it was inevitable that Republicans would be more radical in opposition than in office. The consistently late and anemic influence of moderate American business leaders, however, is as important.
Shultz and his aroused one hundred now see America at a “fragile and critical moment.” Why couldn’t they see this months, even weeks ago? Why, for instance, didn’t these “job-creators” send their pro-business Republican champions back to the negotiating table in July? Why did they not raise hell about playing chicken with the US debt ceiling? The obvious, lame reason they can speak now is that the “no label” non- partisan platform allows them to speak--without taking sides.
These business leaders spend millions buying attention in Washington that they can have for nothing, but don’t seem to have anything bold, concrete or offensive to say.
There were plenty of gentlemen in the late 30s who told Winston Churchill to tone down his rhetoric, that the way to impress Hitler was to get along and stand with his Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain.
History doesn’t remember or honor “no label” politics when decisions must be made.
Starbuck’s has a vital stake in social harmony and broad-based job creation in urban America. Furthermore, when Americans get fed up, they don’t boycott politics or leave for Canada, they take sides. Schultz owes it to his business as well as his convictions to place a second advertisement openly endorsing Obama’s Thursday address to Congress if it does, in fact, offer a centrist strategy for immediate stimulus and comprehensive fiscal reform.