Howard Schultz speaks in Cambridge, protestors say ‘go home’

Protesters+gathered+outside+the+Brattle+Theatre+in+Cambridge+Tuesday+to+protest+Howard+Schultz%27s+potential+presidential+run.+Among+them+was+Maria+Robinson+of+Cambridge%2C+pictured+above.+
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Howard Schultz speaks in Cambridge, protestors say ‘go home’

Protesters gathered outside the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge Tuesday to protest Howard Schultz's potential presidential run. Among them was Maria Robinson of Cambridge, pictured above.

Protesters gathered outside the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge Tuesday to protest Howard Schultz's potential presidential run. Among them was Maria Robinson of Cambridge, pictured above.

Chris Triunfo

Protesters gathered outside the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge Tuesday to protest Howard Schultz's potential presidential run. Among them was Maria Robinson of Cambridge, pictured above.

Chris Triunfo

Chris Triunfo

Protesters gathered outside the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge Tuesday to protest Howard Schultz's potential presidential run. Among them was Maria Robinson of Cambridge, pictured above.

Chris Triunfo, city editor

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Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told a Cambridge crowd on Tuesday that he doesn’t mind the attacks he’s been getting from Democrats who are angered that he’s contemplating an independent run for president.

“Nobody wants to see [President Donald J. Trump] leave office more than me,” said Schultz, a billionaire and long-time Democrat, following a speaking event at Harvard Square’s Brattle Theatre.

But many think Schultz could help Trump earn a second term. Members of various groups, including Indivisible Acton, a local progressive activist group, gathered outside the Brattle to protest Schultz. Robin Parker, who was among the protesters, said Schultz’s run would open the door to a divide in the Democratic electorate large enough to let Trump win.

“Schultz’s self-funded vanity run will assure that Donald Trump is re-elected to a second term,” Parker said. “It will split the opposition to the Trump presidency, allowing Trump’s hard-core supporters to return him to office with the support of only a minority of all voters.”

Democratic strategists, like Adam Parkhomenko, who worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, have chimed in as well. Parkhomenko set up a website in hopes of spreading the word against Schultz’s campaign.

Michael Bloomberg, who is considering a Democratic presidential bid of his own and has flirted with independent runs in the past, offered strong criticism on Monday.

“Given the strong pull of partisanship and the realities of the electoral college system, there is no way an independent can win,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “That is truer today than ever before.”

Others said Schultz has every right to run. Waiting beside the protesters for a standby ticket to the event was Patrick Breslin, an aircraft mechanic from Connecticut. He defended Schultz and said the protests are contrary to the core tenets of a democracy.

Chris Triunfo
Howard Schultz signs books as he leaves the Brattle Theatre on Tuesday.

“I respect Howard Schultz as a businessman, and as a person,” Breslin said. “Would I vote for him? No. But he has every right to run. It’s a little presumptuous to say he would be a spoiler. It’s un-American to call for someone to not express their ideas.”

Inside, Schultz pitched himself as a moderate who wants to bring bipartisanship back to Washington.

“The government is not working well,” Schultz said. “The two-party system at the extremes are refusing to make any compromise on behalf of the American people.”

Schultz hasn’t presented specific policy proposals, though he told the crowd that he supports a “sensible” approach to immigration and that the Trump tax cuts in 2017 were an “immoral act.” During his talk, he referenced his own childhood at various times. His parents did not have health insurance, making it a goal of his to ensure that every American has access to affordable healthcare. But he said he would not support any kind of universal healthcare program.

Schultz has come under fire recently for a CNBC interview in which he rejects being labeled as a billionaire.

“The moniker ‘billionaire’ now has become the catchphrase,” Schultz said during the interview. “I would rephrase that and say people of means have been able to leverage their wealth and their interest in ways that are unfair.”

Protesters made fun of this, with signs reading “Venti is a fancy word for large. People of means is a fancy term for billionaires,” and “bumbling billionaire.”

Other protesters were there concerning larger issues. Adam Friedman, the executive director of Voter Choice Massachusetts, attended to spread the word about bringing change to the electoral system.

“The best way to make American democracy more inclusive and make more voters feel better represented is for America to have more parties,” Friedman said. “But to accomplish that, we’d need to change our electoral system. Ideally, we’d adopt ranked-choice voting.”

Ranked-choice voting would allow voters to rank multiple candidates in order of preference. If there is no candidate with a majority victory, the candidate with the least amount of votes would be eliminated. Their votes would then be dispersed, going to the selected second choice on each ballot, and so on.

“Our system pressures voters to choose the ‘lesser of two evils’ and discourages candidates like Schultz from running,” Friedman said. “This narrows our options. Right now, he could be a spoiler. But he doesn’t have to be.”

Schultz still has a long way to go to win the presidency. In between chants of “Howard Schultz go home,” Parker said Schultz’s refusal to participate in the party primary process will ensure his loss.

“The last third-party candidate to win a single Electoral College vote was that racist George Wallace in 1968,” Parker said. “Schultz is no Wallace, but he’s on his way to becoming the next Jill Stein.”

Following the speaking event, Schultz told the News he will not be making a formal decision regarding his candidacy for another few months.