Thought on Howard Schultz’s alleged presidential run

There has been significant coverage on Howard Schultz’s intention of running in 2020 as an Independent. The coverage, as I have seen so far, has been pretty negative, coming from multiple angles and parties. Most don’t want him to run. The hostility makes me think about the implications of democracy. Specifically, the reaction from Democrats startles me.

In a democratic society, everyone is allowed to voice their opinion and do what is permitted by the laws. Hence, the criticisms and hostility towards Howard Schultz are perfectly fine. What should have been better is the reaction from Democrats, in my opinion. It’s almost a given that Donald Trump, as the sitting president, will be the GOP nominee in 2020. The GOP so far has shown in multiple instances that it is no longer the party of rules, laws and principles as it claims. As a party that advocates democracy and the word is actually part of the party’s name, the Democrats should encourage the principles of a democratic society.

Instead, they complain about the possibility that Independents such as Howard Schultz will take votes away from their candidates and help re-elect Trump. In truth, so many voters in 2016 sat out of the election because they didn’t like any of the candidates from the two main parties. I myself talked to a few of them in Nebraska. Therefore, if voters don’t like your candidates, what difference would having Independents like Schultz make?

Plus, telling Howard Schultz to stand down goes against the principles of democracy. In the time of confusion right now, the Democrats ought to try to emphasize the principles of democracy. Also, they should just stop trying too hard to be relevant such as Elizabeth Warren’s DNA going-nowhere story or her having a beer in the kitchen on Instagram. Instead, work on practical agendas and communication. Convince voters why your candidates should be elected, rather than criticize or discourage those who just exercise their rights.

At the end of the day, there is a price for everything, including living in a democratic society, isn’t there?

Midterms and why you should vote

I do discuss politics, but with my friends only or those who are open-minded enough to do it without engaging in a shouting match or escalating it to another level. I don’t want to talk politics on this blog because it’s a black hole. But today I want to.

Midterm ads

As the midterms are coming around the corner, I have seen more ads on YouTube. Mostly attack ads that are sponsored by  a candidate to attack his or her opponents. That’s pitiful. A lot of money is spent on attacking opponents. Instead, such money should have been spent in a more meaningful way.

Politics in America is about the extreme. It’s either one end of the stick or the other end. Nothing in between. It’s common to advance by attacking others. Meanwhile, plenty of important issues in our life go unnoticed or misunderstood by the public. Issues such as foreign policies, trade or healthcare are highly complicated and most of us don’t quite get them. Even if we understand, the compartmentalization and secrecy born out of how governments work in general, not just the US government, make information inaccessible and misunderstanding more palpable.

Call me an idealist, but if public servants as these politicians all claim to be want to serve the public, wouldn’t it benefit the public if they spent their money on educating their constituents on important issues, instead of attacking their opponents? I am not talking about last-minute vids when campaigns start. I am talking about a year-long constant effort on trying to help constituents understand issues more. It’s likely that they wouldn’t understand some highly highly complex issues anyway, but at least they would understand more what is going on. And that is the essence of serving the public.

In business, the surest way to attract users/customers is to be helpful/useful to them. It should be the same here. Politicians wouldn’t need to be helpful for the public. They could do it for themselves. By making themselves a reliable source of information and knowledge on what matters in constituents’ lives, I believe politicians would find it easier to earn trust. Even if things go wrong, they could always say: hey, I have been telling you that we have to compromise in politics and things are not straightforward 9 out of 10 cases. That’s the truth, provided that these politicians are forthcoming and transparent.

Sadly, it is not the case.

The importance of voting

I have talked to a few folks in Nebraska. Some didn’t vote in 2016 because they didn’t like either candidate. Low turnout is not really that uncommon here. But I’d like to talk about what happens on tonight’s episode of Madam Secretary, a show I talked about in the past.

On this episode, the Secretary had to find a way to work with a dictator in Philippines to retrieve the bodies of dead American soldiers who died in, probably, WW2 (I don’t remember the show mentioning it clearly but it was 1945, so WW2 was my guess). The dictator refused to endorse the request to retrieve the bodies, unless America gave him money that would be used to buy weapons and suppress his citizens in the future. Some compromise would be required here.

Meanwhile, her daughter worked for a candidate who pledged to campaign on student loans as one of his principles. But he left it out of his agenda. Her daughter quit the campaign because of that. Listen to this clip to see how the Secretary taught her daughter on the importance of voting.

I was about to go to bed and like I said, politics is not what I like to talk about on this blog. Nonetheless, I figured I had to do this because it mattered. If you read this and are eligible to vote in a few days, do vote. Like the Secretary said, many died for you to be able to vote. And why wouldn’t you? It will affect your life for years to come. It will also affect the world for years to come. If your representative is a decisive vote on a bill that will affect other countries, imagine that.

Do a quick research on your representatives, senators, attorney generals or governors. Any position that is on the ballot. Chances are you won’t agree with everything a candidate has to offer, but it’s life and it may be because some compromise had been made and you don’t know about it. Nonetheless, do vote.

Democracy is not perfect

America is very proud of the democracy that it claims to have. I wrote “claims to have” because whether the claim is true depends on one’s interpretation of the electoral college, voting suppression and gerrymandering taking place now. While democracy has its values, like everything else, it is not bullet-proof. It is not perfect.

At the end of the day, democracy is essentially a popularity contest. Anyone getting the most votes wins an election in a democratic society. However, such popularity may not guarantee the best outcomes for that society. Let’s look at a system in which there is no electoral college, voting suppression or gerrymandering.

To get the most votes, a candidate has to present an agenda that voters will deem to be bringing benefits to the voters’ lives. Unfortunately, voters in different living environments, or business settings need and want different things. A person in an industrial rural area will have different needs and perspectives than a person in a technology hub on the East/West coast. To win the most votes, an agenda has to address different and sometimes contrasting needs across the country. Eventually, a winning agenda (the most popular as well) is usually compromised, but not the best agenda for anyone.

To make democracy work, I believe that a country should ideally have as small a population as possible and less diversity. The more diversity in a country, the less effective democracy. America is as diverse as it can get in terms of race, culture, income level, business environments and resources across the states and even counties in one state. Hence, I believe that democracy would not be as effective in America as it can be in theory.

If you look at Singapore or China, the two countries’ economy and living standards have been improved drastically under arguably the authoritative leaderships of their leaders. Obviously, some may argue that the meteoric rise came at the cost of individual freedom, especially in the case of China.

In summary, I don’t believe that there is a perfect social system. Democracy is not an exception either. Additionally, I don’t believe that a social system works in every country regardless of any differences in social fiber. There is no formula that can be used to pre-determine the effectiveness of a social system. There are too many factors in play. I cannot say that I understand how an authoritative, democratic or socialist model works in one country and doesn’t in another. But I do believe that it is wrong to overestimate or underestimate a model just because it works or doesn’t work in other countries.