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Wake up & smell the coffee! Starbucks CEO gets schooled in US politics 101

Robert Bridge
Robert Bridge
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. Former Editor-in-Chief of The Moscow News, he is author of the book, 'Midnight in the American Empire,' released in 2013.
Wake up & smell the coffee! Starbucks CEO gets schooled in US politics 101
Increasingly, the only people who can challenge the two-party US political system are ultra-wealthy business tycoons with no government experience, a factor that should preclude the US from lecturing others on democracy.

Hell hath no fury like a two-party system scorned.

Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, learned that lesson the hard way when he announced he was planning to run for the White House in 2020 as a "centrist independent." The Democrats responded by sending fire and brimstone raining down on his head.

The social media discontent ran the gauntlet from 'Democrats boycott Starbucks!' to the equally predictable, 'Schultz is a Putin puppet!'. But the coffee mogul shouldn't take it too personally. Even had a resurrected George Washington strolled into Capitol Hill to save the Republic, he would have been branded a Russian agent and tossed out of town on his head.

In other words, the entire establishment rose to the occasion, inciting a mob reaction against the Frappuccino king. They employed the same tired logic that every political outsider must face when the Republican-Democrat grip on power is threatened. By gatecrashing the Beltway as an Independent, the argument goes, Schultz would siphon off Democratic voters, thereby allowing the incumbent Donald Trump to drive Liberals insane for another four long years (which just might be worth the price of admission, by the way).

If history is any indication, the Democrats have some reason for concern. In 1992, for example, the billionaire industrialist Ross Perot entered the presidential race as an Independent against the incumbent George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. As reward for his millions of spent dollars, the businessman tapped into a deep wellspring of voter anger and frustration and nearly made it to the White House. Although Ross Perot ultimately failed in his bid, many believe that his presence on the ballot helped sweep William Jefferson Clinton to victory.

Today, America is confronted by an animal of a different sort, that is, the prospect of a billionaire coffee mogul plotting to topple a billionaire real estate mogul. The ancient Greeks, who knew a thing or two about government, would have called this state of affairs 'plutocracy', or rule by the wealthy. In fact, Schultz admitted that the reason he became interested in running for president was to challenge the ideas of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the left's young and upcoming 'Democratic Socialist' who recently made headlines by calling for a 70-percent tax rate on the mega-wealthy.

But there's a catch. Although Ocasio-Cortez has made a big splash with her toothy 'eat the rich' persona, the fact remains that she is just another hostage of America's highly exclusive two-party franchise. In this elitist underworld of back-door deals and secret handshakes, nothing of consequence ever happens that would derail the corporate gravy train. Nothing.

As way of proof, think back to Barack Obama and his magical ‘Hope and Change’ tour. Having entered office right after the devastating financial crisis of 2008, many voters – this writer included – expected America’s first Black president to initiate a crackdown on white-collar criminals. However, that much-needed housecleaning never transpired. Soon it became clear to many of Obama’s erstwhile supporters that the ‘Teleprompter-in-Chief’ was basically a fraud, a smooth-talking salesman who failed to hold those financiers – who deliberately bilked millions of Americans of their life savings – accountable for their crimes.

So as the rich got richer and the US military continued its overseas adventures, it was no coincidence that in the next election cycle millions of voters supported Donald Trump – yet another billionaire. This turn of events threw Washington into a tailspin from which it is still trying to escape. And therein lies the crux of the matter.

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Tycoons with political pretensions are considered the real ‘deplorables’ by the establishment elite, who will fight against these wealthy interlopers with every weapon at their disposal. Thus we see Donald Trump being attacked on a regular basis by the media and the Democrats over ‘Russiagate’, one of the wildest conspiracy theories of modern times. Now, Howard Schultz is also suffering at the hands of a media attack campaign. That is no coincidence, and the reason comes down to power and influence.

The establishment – or ‘the swamp’ as Trump would call it – is terrified of these plundering plutocrats. The problem is not that these people are excessively wealthy; aside from Las Vegas, Washington, DC is the last place on earth that would turn away a warm body with deep pockets. The ‘problem’ is that these super-rich free agents create a liability issue in that the establishment has no control over them. Billionaires like Donald Trump and Howard Schultz are not beholden to any corporate lobbyist, special interest group or Super PAC since they do not need or want their money. This gives them the freedom to create their own agendas once they are in office.

Incidentally, it says a lot that so many congressional lawmakers continue to get very wealthy on a public servant salary. How does that happen?

The total wealth of all current members was at least $2.43 billion when the 115th Congress began, 20 percent more than the collective riches of the previous Congress,” Roll Call reported.

That explains why we see the same old familiar figures being propped up – in many cases quite literally – year after year. Lobbyists on Capitol Hill hate unpredictability in their candidates every bit as much as traders on Wall Street hate unpredictability in the markets.

The truth is Washington has only itself to blame for guys like Donald Trump, and now Howard Schultz, crashing their gated community. Had the Republican and Democrat leviathan been more accommodating over the years to new faces and ideas, while lowering the high threshold that exists for third-party participation, unpredictable mavericks would have less motivation and opportunity for agitating the masses with their personal wealth.

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Paradoxically, the establishment now finds itself between a rock and a hard place, between billionaires Howard Schultz and Donald Trump, plutocrats who gatecrashed Washington, DC due to the exclusive nature of the two-party system itself.

This brings us to the greatest irony of all.

Despite the severely flawed nature of the US political system, at a time when trust in the US government remains at historic lows, Americans still cannot resist the temptation to lecture other countries on how to run their governments. This has been a running theme from the days of Woodrow Wilson, who famously declared “the world must be made safe for democracy,” all the way to the Bush and Obama presidencies where “spreading democracy” was a cheap slogan designed to explain away disastrous military interventions in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

And now the Trump administration appears to have joined the regime change jet set as well. This week, the US president congratulated Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó for his “historic assumption of the presidency” of the Latin American country, despite the fact that the democratically elected President Nicolás Maduro remains in office, although facing protests.

Needless to say, that is a level of arrogance and hubris that is very difficult to explain, although Venezuela’s massive oil resources might shed some light on the meddling. The bottom line is if Washington would learn to focus its attention on the political situation at home as opposed to foreign lands, the American people, as well as the world at large, would be far better off.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to content ourselves with watching the spectacle of a lifetime –  billionaires battling over what is left of American democracy.

@Robert_Bridge

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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