Howard Schultz -- What Difference Does it Make?

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s announcement that he’s considering an independent presidential run is causing Democrats conniptions.   Hysteria -- always bubbling just below the Democratic surface -- can’t be far behind. 

The standard explanation for concern is that Schultz will split the progressive/liberal vote in 2020 and re-elect Trump, and many Dems clearly fear this.  But the larger underlying reason for Democrats to be concerned (outside of predicting 2020 electoral votes) is that a Schultz run risks more than an electoral loss in 2020.  It risks undermining the Democratic leftward lurch.   

If Schultz does run, it is not a certainty he will hurt the Democratic nominee any more than Trump.  His prospective appeal is as a centrist, which theoretically could draw voters from either party.  And Schultz’s similarity to Trump, at least as a billionaire outsider, could draw in independents who liked Trump in 2016 but have soured on him since. 

Nonetheless, Schultz is being urged not to run on the basis of Democratic solidarity in order to defeat Trump.  To back up the urging there are threats as well. 

Typically, Democrats characterize the prospective run as a billionaire’s egotistical fancy.  For Schultz to run it would mean (by the Democrat’s calculation) that he cares more about stroking that ego than the party he supported for so long, or by extension (as Democrats see it) the country.

Schultz may well be a bored egotistical billionaire who is willing to spend his wealth in a chimeric quest for the presidency, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong for doing so.  If nothing else, Schultz is illustrating just how crazy the Democratic party has become, as actual and prospective candidates fall over each other to propose ever more outlandish leftward policies. 

The two principal announced candidates so far, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris (Kirsten Gillibrand doesn’t count) have between them already proposed in the last couple weeks an unconstitutional “wealth tax” forcing Congress to watch the autopsies of shooting victims, and eliminating private health care plans, among other standard “progressive” orthodoxies.   

We are still twenty-two months from the election, with a presumed gaggle of other leftist Democrats still to jump in.  At this rate, by the nominating convention, the positions on the Democrat platform will be hard to distinguish from those former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.  And we all know how well that worked out. 

Democratic activists like this.  They believe that Trump is so weak and unpopular that his defeat by a Democratic nominee in 2020 is inevitable.  That being the case, they figure now is the time to push Democratic positions as far left as possible, with the result that the country will be stuck with whomever the activist wing of the Democratic party likes best after the election.  Schultz supposedly puts a monkey-wrench this calculation, which is why he has to be driven off.

This though is precisely why Schultz says he is considering a run.  A lifelong Democrat, but not an ideologue, he sees the party going off the deep end. 

The calculation Schultz must make is one that Democratic hardliners prefer to ignore.  Schultz is a smart guy, and has to figure his chances of winning an independent run are minuscule.  He presumably realizes that doing so might rob the Democratic candidate of critical votes needed to defeat Trump (although that is far from certain.)  So based upon this, the question he must ask himself is “Who would I rather see as President in 2020 if it is not me, Donald Trump or Kamala Harris (or Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, et al)?”

Schultz denies he is running as a spoiler, and recently said “…it would kill me to see President Trump reelected.”  But unless he is as deluded as the Democrats that oppose him, and he really thinks he has a shot as an independent, a run very likely means the opposite.  That is, Schultz actually prefers Trump in that scenario, and why wouldn’t he assuming he still wants to be a billionaire in 2024.  The corollary to that is so will most Americans. 

The Democratic belief that Trump’s defeat is almost inevitable, is a massive and foolish misconception.  Schultz sees this (as do presumably some sane middle-road Democrats) but he knows he has little power or influence to steer the party in a more reasonable direction.  Democratic activists see a Schultz candidacy as undermining an otherwise assured victory.  Schultz probably believes his candidacy will make little difference in an election in which the Democrats run an unelectable leftwing radical. 

By that calculation, neither he nor the Democrats have much to lose if he runs.