It seems the former CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz is thinking about putting his hat in the 2020 ring to run as an independent.
Naturally, this requires a reasoned and well-thought response from Twitter (just read this article from Balloon Juice for a nice refresher). Which, if I can summarize for you, was this:
OH FUCK NO.
There's already been calls to boycott Starbucks (I originally argued that it might not work since he retired the CEO gig, but it turns out he still owns a hefty share so yeah go ahead nuke the company).
Schultz's reasoning for running is he posits the "Both Sides are wrong" argument popular with the "No Labels Third Party Will Save Us" wing of mainstream media.
But he's made his real reason pretty clear after his first couple of interviews: He's already attacked the likes of Kamala Harris (who announced this week) and Elizabeth Warren (who's announced earlier) and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez (who is too young to announce but can dance circles around him) for their open calls for higher tax rates and expanded healthcare / social aid programs that will likely involve taxing the rich.
He's terrified by Democratic Party calls for a high marginal tax rate on billionaires, and he wants to do everything in his power - such as Spoiling the Democrats as a "Centrist" - to ensure trump wins a second term to keep that from happening.
Let's refer to Eugene Robinson at RealClearPolitics on this:
At present, the specter of a second Trump term looks comfortably remote. The blue wave in the midterm election and Trump's cellar-dwelling approval numbers show what the country thinks of him and his corrupt, chaotic, kooky administration. A recent poll shows him trailing any of his likely Democratic opponents. If the election were held next week, I'm pretty confident that Trump would lose to a ham sandwich.
He does have a chance in 2020, however, if the anti-Trump vote is split between two or more candidates. Imagine Schultz, a lifelong Democrat, siphoning off even 5 percent of the Democratic candidate's vote in, say, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The horror of 2016 threatens to become a recurring nightmare.
Here is the sad truth of American Presidential Elections that I have noted before: The Electoral College system as currently rigged favors a Winner-Take-All by state meaning the top two major party candidates - Democratic and Republican - are the ONLY possible candidates to win the Electors.
No third party or independent candidate stands a chance. Anderson in 1980 barely won 6 percent of the overall popular vote and NOTHING in the Electoral College. Perot ran his vanity campaigns in 1992 and 1996 and achieved the same Electoral College results (Nada). Libertarians and Green candidates have yet to garner even ONE Elector over multiple campaigns. The last time we had a successful third party candidate was Wallace in 1968 with 46 EV, and that was because of the cultural and political shift over the Civil Rights Acts that sent the racist Southern voters to the polls in revolt.
But that's the thing, as Robinson notes, the third party candidate can perform the role of Spoiler to knock the possible winner down a peg and force the Electoral College - by having key battleground states flip the wrong way by just a handful of votes - to elect the losing Second-Place finisher.
We've seen it within our own lifetimes. The Perot races in 1992 and 1996 arguably pulled away enough votes from the Republican candidates, and there's still bitterness among Democrats towards the role Ralph Nader played in the 2000 elections. You could argue about Jill Stein affecting Hillary's chances in key states, but Libertarian Gary Johnson had a bigger popular vote impact and it did little damage to trump's chances (there's still the specter of Putin sabotaging the whole 2016 scene so that's kind of a wash). Outside of our times, the biggest Spoiler election was 1912's when Teddy Roosevelt - angry at his Republican protege Taft's soft business policies - decided to run his Bull Moose campaign... letting the Democratic candidate Wilson win due to the split Republican voter base.
Robinson notes in his article how even trump understood that in 2015-16:
Remember how coy Trump was early in the Republican primary campaign, reserving the option of an independent candidacy if the GOP did not treat him fairly? Trump used the threat as leverage to get his way on debate logistics and ballot access. But then he suddenly reversed course, signing a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.
A person familiar with Trump's thinking told me why. Trump understood that the most likely outcome, if he ran on his own, would be to guarantee Hillary Clinton's election by taking votes away from the GOP candidate. In his wildest dreams, he might hope to win enough electoral votes to keep either major-party candidate from reaching a majority. But in that case, the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives -- which would surely choose the Republican or the Democrat, not Trump.
That's the real purpose - and threat - of a strong third party candidate in our current Presidential system: shake up enough votes to make the likely winning party actually lose.
Schultz is not actually strong - at least not yet, because he's a relatively unknown figure just re-entering the spotlight - but he is RICH. As a confirmed billionaire, he can throw about 500 million dollars at a vanity campaign and still use it as a tax write-off somehow because he can STILL spend enough money on accountants to cheat the IRS.
Referring back to my earlier argument against Schultz: the sonofabitch is running scared because the ascendant Democratic Party - with its new lineup of Progressive and left-leaning Congresspersons - shows little sign of slipping back for the upcoming 2020 cycle. The Dems are likely to retain control of the House, can arguably retain enough state governments (and maybe win a few Purple ones if the turnout's high enough) to keep progressive efforts going, may threaten Republican control of the Senate (more GOP Senators are up for re-election than Democrats this next cycle), and are poised to win against an unpopular and inept incumbent in trump (barring further Russian intervention).
Running for Governor or Senator as an "Independent" (or even as a business-friendly Democrat - he is apparently a registered D) won't stop that momentum. Running for President - even with the unlikelihood of winning without a popular base of support - to ensure trump retains veto power over everything is the best achievable goal.
Schultz making this a suicide mission is the only thing that makes sense. He has to know he's already getting hit on social media by outraged Democrats, and he's making a terrible impression with the media talking heads he's interviewed with. He's just another amateur at politics. It'd be like... me, making an announcement from my blog that "HEY, I'm throwing my hat in the ring for 2020 as an Independent!"
The only difference between Schultz and myself is I cannot afford to even download the paperwork I'd have to file to start a campaign, and he can afford to hire 10,000 people to do all that for him.
But we're running into the OTHER big problem with modern American politics (actually it's several): terrible, horrifying myths about business and politics.
- The myth that Government ought to be run like a Business;
- The myth that Business Leaders - CEOs for example - are capable of managing Public Sector powers;
- The myth that our partisan landscape can be healed/fixed by a calming Centrist figure that can create bipartisan support just by standing there oh so pretty.
As we've seen from bad performances from other Presidents with business backgrounds - Hoover and Dubya and the current Loser of the Popular Vote trump (the con artist's not even a successful businessman in the first place!!!) - we should know by now that being a CEO is different from being a President. Decision making in a business is top-down, has to be, and there's nothing wrong with that. But a President has to lead by consensus and awareness of the public will, and CEOs can never think like that (everything has to be HIS WAY or the highway, or in Dubya's case he deferred authority out to handlers like Cheney - also having corporate experience - who DID think like that).
The myth of Government being run like a Business should be taking hits as well. Where a business operates in order to earn profits, a government has to operate to provide services as a public good. Those are opposing objectives. Every time the Republicans pull their "run it like a business" stunt - tax cuts and deregulations - everything falls apart with deficits and collapsing infrastructure.
The final myth is the belief - the hope - of the mainstream media and high-ranking punditry that all we need is a Uniter figure outside of "Party" corruption to rise up and save us from our weak political overlords. They look to figures like Washington who seemed to rise above party (only because he existed before they formed, and when they did he leaned conservative/Federalist). They look to calming, fatherly patriarchs like Eisenhower or amiable, cheerful types like Reagan (his spell on the current punditry remains horrifyingly intact).
THAT is the biggest pipe dream of all. There is no outisde Uniter figure waiting to save us, no one with a level of public popularity - outside of entertainers with universal appeal - that can sweep in and guide us to sane policy. And if there is, it sure as hell isn't yet another billionaire - especially one whom nobody could pick out of a police lineup two weeks ago - thinking he can buy his way onto the national ballot.
But we're stuck with Schultz, just like we were stuck with other vanity candidates like Perot, or the likes of Steve Forbes or Herman Cain trying their luck in Republican primaries.
Because the final biggest problem we have with our electoral system: It favors the rich.
It's been a thing since our nation's founding: Every political player from the Founders at the Declaration of Independence through the first few decades of forming the Constitution were all wealthy men. Lawyers, merchants, landowners, slaveowners. Not a one of them were what we'd call poor or middle class. They could afford to play the game of politics and then hand it off to the next rich newcomer to come along and keep the game going.
As our nation grew, we'd get the occasional poor person - someone from a struggling background - but we'd still get overwhelmed by the business leaders and the profit makers, all of them keeping control of government to ensure their needs - staying rich - were met first before taking care of the general welfare (reforms when they happened only happen in waves, like the Progressive Era of the early 20th Century in response to the corruption of the late 19th Century).
This is where we're stuck today. Only the rich can run for office. Entry fees alone to get on a ballot can get expensive. You have to take time to campaign, make speeches, get on airwaves, kiss babies, etc. and only the self-employed and indolent wealthy can afford that. You have to raise campaign funds, which means getting other wealthy people to chip in, and who else can do that but someone from those same social circles?
And the current electoral system favoring dark money and deep-pocket SuperPACs - thanks Citizens United! - guarantees that the wealthy can buy their candidates and make sure they stay bought.
We may live in a republic democracy, and we in theory should have open elections where any person could put their name in to run for office. But in practice we're stuck in a system where the billionaires hire the millionaires to run the government across the board as much as possible. And whenever that gets threatened - when a political party gains power like the Democrats that are willing to disrupt the rich people's attempts to get even richer by avoiding their civic duty of paying taxes or answering to the law - they break out fellow billionaires to run themselves and do their hardest to convince enough
This shouldn't be a hard decision to make, America. Billionaires are ironically not worth it as Presidential candidates. They are more disaster than savior.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD
Update: So far, Schultz's campaign rollout has been getting negative reviews. If he's trying to appeal to Democrats, accusing the party's more popular figures as "unAmerican" isn't going to cut it... (via Paul Blest at Splinter):
Schultz has just been getting pummeled from all sides over the past few days for everything from his inability to provide a vision for the country that doesn’t sound like it was left on the cutting floor during West Wing writers’ meetings to his repeated insistence that taxes, a robust safety net, and essentially everything that he doesn’t like are “un-American.” But while a lot of the attacks have come from the left, even Schultz’s presumed natural constituency—ideological centrists who think Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump pose a remotely similar level of danger to the country—are already tired of his shit.
Axios’ Mike Allen, who’s never afraid to ask the tough questions, has a blog out in Axios today which serves to allow Democratic Party “insiders”—i.e., the people whose main responsibility for the last couple of decades has been making sure it never does anything too popular—the opportunity to verbally whale on Schultz and his insipid candidacy... One of Washington’s best-wired party operatives told me: “I’ve talked to six dozen Democrats, and the overwhelming sentiment is that he will be pushed out by this incredible wave of disgust and disdain rolling his way...”Schultz is going to have a problem appealing to the "Centrists" among the Democratic ranks if Schultz keeps talking like he's further to the Right on economic issues than most Republicans.
Like I tweeted:
it's at the point where Schultz is essentially just trump without the MAGA Hat Racism, which shouldn't make Schultz a draw to anyone in this electoral market. Except the damn media will pretend he's a fcking moderate to try and draw centrist voters away from the Dems. >:(
This election cycle requires total focus, America. Don't vote for billionaire assholes, thank you.