A well-motivated bad idea

August 23, 2011

Culture, Ethics, Faith & Action, Values

By Charles Redfern

Howard Schultz

So impassioned, so compelling, and so misguided: Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz has called for a nation-wide strike against politicians.  He’d have us speak the only language they know, money.  We would withhold all donations from each and every one until they honestly negotiated, compromised, and resolved their conflicts.  Our country will work once more.

How enthralling.  I’m almost ready to fold my checkbook – but then I remember the call’s three fatal assumptions: First, believe it or not, not all politicians are equally culpable for the gridlock.  Remember the “gang of six” and their noble compromise attempt as the debt ceiling approached?  What about those yielding their (reasonable) positions on moderate tax hikes for the rich?  And think of Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, the last remaining Republican moderates.  Do we abandon them as they guard their party’s historic turf?  Even Independents and Democrats wish them well.

Second, do we honestly think everyone would heed the call?  Even if Schultz achieved a 99 percent success rate, the Libertarian billionaire Koch brothers would funnel their donations to their candidates and causes, which include eliminating regulations on worker safety, guns, and environmental pollutants.  There would be no minimum wage, no pornography regulations, and no abortion supervision.  Do you hear that, O Religious Right?  Think of wolves in sheep’s clothing and smell the breath of that smiling creature draping its paw over your shoulder.  The radicals – those actually longing to grind our government to a halt – would still get fat while we starve reasonable politicians.  Perhaps a far better proposal would be a bipartisan campaign spotlighting the equitable and judicious.


But then I remember Schultz’s third fatal assumption, which I’ll frame in a question: Are the politicians the real problem?  Why do we elect greed-catering thugs?  Why do we reward negative campaigning? Why do we promote the swift boaters into office cycle after election cycle?  There were good politicians available in 2010: Republican Mike Castle of Delaware had been vetted for years, but his own party rejected him in favor of the immensely unqualified Christine O’Donnell, who subsequently lost (a sigh of relief).  And then there was Republican Bob Bennett of Utah, a reasonable man and as conservative as they come, losing in the Tea Party juggernaut.  Why are we even considering Governor Rick Perry and US Rep. Michele Bachman, who dismiss the Everest-high evidence for human-induced climate change and display little historical understanding?

We … Us … Nosotros … Nos …

The well-meaning Schultz would have us skirt the real villains, whom we meet in our own shouts and four-letter words and innuendos and charges and counter-charges and in our own souls’ rage.  Curmudgeons and gossips elect curmudgeons and gossips.

We’re caught in a spiritual crisis with political symptoms, and withholding funds from all politicians would starve the wrong monster.  Let’s call a strike against our own rationalizations.  Let’s explore the ugliness of our own psyches – and let’s resurrect two disciplines we thought we no longer needed: Confession and repentance.  The mirror in Congress insists on their urgent relevance.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern


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3 Comments on “A well-motivated bad idea”

  1. Betty Henson Says:

    Since my comments on the last article were negative I feel that I must tell you that this one is insightful, and well written. I agree with your assessment that it is a spiritual crisis that is allowing many of these things to happen.


  2. Jenny Says:

    Since the incentive to cheat, as you mentioned, is so strong, I’m really surprised that someone would recommend this…unless in jest. Sounds to me just like a ploy to make Starbuck’s CEO look young and hip (i.e., non-political) and give the company some cheap publicity.


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