Saturday, January 19, 2019


For years I've been warning you that former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wants to run for president. He has a book coming out later this month that's obviously intended as a campaign manifesto (title: From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America). He's a Democrat, so I assumed he'd be looking for an opening in the Democratic primaries along with a couple dozen other wannabes.

But no -- The Washington Post says today that he's probably running as an independent.
Advisers to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz have been exploring the possibility of launching an independent bid for the White House in 2020, according to two people who have been informed of the discussions.
The Post story devotes many paragrpahs to the question of what happens if three candidates pick up electoral votes and nobody wins 270. You may know that the decision then goes to the House, and you may think that's fine -- Democrats control the House. But it's not that simple:
If no candidate wins 270 or more votes, the victor would be decided by the House in a “contingent election,” with each state delegation getting one ballot....

Although Democrats make up a majority of the House, Republicans still have an advantage in the number of state delegations they control, with more Republican members than Democrats in 26 of the 50 states. Democrats are a majority of 22 House delegations. Two states, Pennsylvania and Michigan, have an equal number of Republican and Democratic members.
(Yes, here's another constitutional provision that's anti-majoritarian. It's as if the whole damn document is stacked against more populous states!)

But I'm not worried that Schultz will win any electoral votes. No non-segregationist third-party candidate has won a state in a presidential election since 1924, when Fightin' Bob LaFollette won his home state of Wisconsin. (Strom Thurmond won four states in 1948 and George Wallace won five in 1968. John Anderson and Ross Perot never won any states, much less Ralph Nader, Jill Stein, or Gary Johnson.)

My concern is that Schultz might be too liberal (or liberal-seeming) to win over right or right-centrist voters -- all the votes he'll take will be from moderate Democrats. He'll effectively split the anti-Trump, anti-GOP vote and hand the election to Trump.

I'm less certain of this than I was when Mike Bloomberg was hinting at an independent run in 2016. Bloomberg is pro-gun control, anti-coal, and against large, sugary drinks. This makes him every right-wingers' caricature of a liberal elitist scold. How many GOP votes would he have been able to peel off?

Schultz may have slightly more appeal to the right-center. Back in 2015, when he was first discussing a presidential run, he talked about "servant leadership" -- a favorite notion among American Christians. On the other hand, he praised a Christian leader who's not exactly a favorite of the American right:
... nothing I’ve read or heard in the past few years has rivaled the power of the image I viewed on my cellphone a few years ago: Pope Francis, shortly after his election, kneeling and washing the feet of a dozen prisoners in Rome, one of them a young Muslim woman, in a pre-Easter ritual.
That and the fact that he responded to Trump's Muslim ban by pledging to hire 10,000 refugees won't enamor him to even moderately conservative Republicans.

But can he win any Democratic votes? Here was Schultz last June in a CNBC interview:
Without naming names, Schultz said in a "Squawk Box" interview: "It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left. I say to myself, 'How are we going to pay for these things,' in terms of things like single payer [and] people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job. I don't think that's realistic." ...

"I think the greatest threat domestically to the country is this $21 trillion debt hanging over the cloud of America and future generations," Schultz said. "The only way we're going to get out of that is we've got to grow the economy, in my view, 4 percent or greater. And then we have to go after entitlements."
Even Trump knew better than to talk about going after Medicare and Social Security.

What worries me is that this is the kind of talk that could help Schultz win the media primary -- he'll get great coverage, even as the Democratic aspirants are treated with increasing disdain. If that happens, and if he finds a foothold among a certain crop of moderate Democratic heartland voters, he could take just enough votes from the Democratic nominee in just enough states to throw the race to Trump.

But it's possible that he'll alienate voters on both sides. It's possible that no one in America wants a CEO president anymore except Trump voters.

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