Democrats across America are infuriated that Starbucks billionaire Howard Schultz is seriously looking to throw his hat in the ring for the presidency with an independent bid untethered to the Democratic Party and its primaries and caucuses, but the fears that his candidacy would ensure President Donald Trump’s reelection seem early and exaggerated.
Right off the bat, his name recognition is extremely low, and he’ll have to spend a staggering amount of his own money on national advertising to fight the uphill battle of general American political apathy. Tom Steyer tried but he didn’t get far, and he dropped his presidential exploration to focus more on impeaching Trump.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also considered running, but suggested his research showed there was no viable path for a third party candidate like himself to run without the likelihood of siphoning enough Democratic votes to let Trump get reelected. However, Bloomberg is certainly a much more civically qualified presidential candidate than Schultz, who hasn’t so much as served the public on a local school board.
So is it just unadulterated egotism that is compelling Schultz to run? Despite eschewing the Democratic Party, he has been a lifelong Democrat, and most of his ideological views do not stand out in this election’s crop of liberal candidates. The only variation appears to come from his fiscal and taxation views, with which he has cast doubt upon the obvious liberal planks of the Democratic Party’s near future, such as universal healthcare and subsidized education. Schultz thinks these are too expensive, and his opinion perhaps reveals his candidacy’s raison d’etre: to save his own taxes from getting hiked by someone like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.
In this polarized era of zealously committed Trump supporters who refuse to entertain the notion that the Trump Administration is a clusterfuck on the Right, and social justice warriors who are furious that electoral and Congressional technicalities keep robbing them of their popular majorities at the federal level of government on the Left, can Schultz woo a remotely relevant number of voters from either party with his call for unity via debt reduction?
Schultz will repel Republican #NeverTrump sympathies by being socially liberal, and he’s very clearly repelling Democratic sympathies by choosing not to endure the gauntlet of the Democratic primary. So what exactly is Howard Schultz’s constituency? Billionaires who know Donald Trump should not be president, but don’t want to give up their tax cuts? Is his constituency some fraction of the 1%?
Maybe Democrats don’t have to worry too much about Howard Schultz. He certainly has the right to run and spread his ideas, especially with his own money, though, as untested and unknown as he is, Democrats’ anger is perhaps unfitting for the threat he actually poses. Who knows, maybe next week he accidentally says something racially insensitive because he’s inexperienced in front of ceaseless media coverage, or he reveals that he doesn’t know much about government or politics in an interview and sinks his campaign all by himself? Ironically, actually getting in the muck of the Democratic primary would be beneficial for Schultz and battle-harden his ideas and how he articulates them, so his decision to run as an independent is underwhelming and uninspiring right off the bat. It also alienates the very liberal voters to which he is most likely to appeal. Maybe this will all very shortly be much ado about nothing.
However, if he runs the full election marathon and Trump wins as a result, I hope he’s okay with epic Starbucks boycotts. Because there will definitely be boycotts.