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Charles Meredith: Howard Schultz and RBG


Dear Friends,

Good morning. Before I get to an excellent movie, “On the Basis of Sex” about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I have a comment concerning Howard Schultz’s determination to run for the presidency as an Independent candidate in 2020.

My colleague and friend, Terry Madonna (the pollster and professor of Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College) wrote an interesting piece about the greatest threat to President Trump’s re-election. It’s not from a Democratic challenger, Terry opined, but from a Republican primary battle. I thought of Terry as I read about Howard Schultz, the former billionaire CEO of Starbucks, who vows to run against Trump as an Independent.

Madonna believes that a third party candidate ensures that the incumbent president will lose. That certainly was the case when Ross Perot ran as an Independent, as George H. W. Bush was seeking re-election in 1992. Ditto for Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party in 1912. As a Republican party incumbent, William Howard Taft lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson because Teddy’s candidacy split the Republican vote.

Madonna says that a more serious threat would come from someone with at least one foot in the Trump camp … acceptable to Trump voters, but Trump without the drama.

Who? Madonna names several: former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, recently retired Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake.

Schultz claims that his primary goal is to deny another four-year term to Donald Trump. I think that the best way for Schultz to accomplish his mission is to run as a Republican in the 2020 primaries. Trump may win anyway but it would severely cripple him and the Republican Party. In my opinion, the GOP needs to cleanse itself by expelling the lunatic fringe, Donald Trump included.

As Madonna wrote, “Clearly a primary challenge looms as the biggest obstacle Trump could face in a quest for a second term. The GOP will not deny Trump the nomination, but a challenger might deny him the presidency. For now a challenger looms as Trump’s biggest nightmare, and his opponents’ fondest dream.”

And now to the movies.

Mighty Betsy and I saw “On the Basis of Sex” at the County Theater last week. We took in the 1:30 p.m. show, which was packed (we had to sit in the front rows) … more women than men in attendance. The showing was so popular that the audience stood up and applauded when the lights came on.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the pioneer litigator who argued cases that were as important to women’s rights as Brown v. Board of Education was to the rights of racial minorities,” the County Theater’s hand-out explained.

“This film focuses on two key elements: RBG’s wonderfully supportive marriage to the late tax attorney Martin Ginsburg and the one case they argued together, a landmark case in outlawing discrimination on the basis of sex.

“The couple was still in law school and the parents of a toddler when Martin Ginsburg became ill with cancer. Ruth attended all of his classes as well as her own and helped him to complete his coursework. She met with Harvard Law School’s Dean Griswold to ask if he would allow her the same opportunity he had given male students … to finish her last year elsewhere and still get a Harvard degree. Griswold refused.

And so she graduated from Columbia University Law School, first in her class.

“No law firm would hire her. RBG put aside her dreams of advocacy and taught law students instead.

“Her husband, Martin, found the ideal case for his wife to argue … a tax case. The tax law would not allow a deduction for the expenses of an unmarried male caregiver … only a female caregiver. RBG saw that the best way to overturn laws that disadvantaged women was to oppose a law that disadvantaged men. The writers of the tax code had failed to consider that an unmarried male might have to care for an elderly parent.

“And the government, under the direction of Dean Griswold, now at the Justice Department, made a very big mistake,” the brochure concluded. “Instead of amending the rule, the Justice Department decided to fight.

They underestimated Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her argument won the day and the law was overturned.”

The arrogance of Harvard back in the 1960s was similar to Penn’s. When RBG first entered Harvard’s Law School, there were just nine women in her class. Today, more than 50 percent of the Harvard Law School are women. Ditto at Penn. In fact at Penn today, my college, more than 50 percent of the undergraduates are women.

To show how things have changed, when I graduated in 1957, there were no women in the Wharton School of Business, no women in the engineering schools, and no men in Penn’s School of Nursing (today, it’s 10 percent male).

It took quite a while for leading institutions to realize that women were just as qualified as men … maybe more so.

It reminds me of an old Pennsylvania German phrase: “We get too soon old and too late smart.”

Sincerely, Charles Meredith