We as a country have messed up priorities. For weeks, there have been discussions of massive voter registration fraud and fears of actual voter fraud on Election Day. The board of elections in the state of Washington finally kicked into gear – against Starbucks.
Starbucks did a terrible deed – a very terrible deed. They dared to give away a free cup of coffee to those who said they had voted. They did not make an offer for those who voted for a particular candidate or issue. Starbucks was simply offering a celebratory coffee for those who went out and voted regardless of party. According to KIRO-TV, the state of Washington's elections board contacted the company yesterday, suggesting they were violating federal elections laws.
This is disturbing. We as a country have serious electoral challenges, and the election board thinks the big worry for America is that Starbucks wants to share in the patriotic celebration by offering some java to those who do their civic duty? This is absurd. Was it that the elections board was concerned that a cup of joe would invoke thoughts of Joe the Plumber? In point of fact, it was quite bipartisan. Don't forget Senator Obama's running mate is also a “Joe.”
With all the problems we have had trying to insure this election is cleaner and fairer than past ones (which, actually, looks unlikely), why was it necessary to attack an actually pleasant occurrence? We have become divided, enraged and mud encrusted over this two year campaign, and to suggest that Starbucks was violating prohibitions on paying voters by offering a free cup of coffee seems unfathomable. Can't anyone have a little joy in this election cycle?
Starbucks, thankfully, dealt with the challenge well, and is now simply offering a free tall coffee to anyone who comes in. We need less of tearing each other down, and more of celebrating our common joy in participating in a still less than common blessing: the ability to vote and choose our own leaders.
Whoever wins tonight, we ought to celebrate that more. We ought to celebrate it with civic-minded companies like Starbucks who are trying to join in this important day for Americans. No beans about it, another successful, free election will be worth celebrating. Perhaps over a cup of Starbucks coffee tomorrow.
Timothy R. Butler is editor-in-chief of Open for Business.