What’s better than one billionaire? Two?
Not so fast.
With the house that Benjamin Banneker saved occupied by a purported billionaire and a Democratic field more crowded than a Wu Tang live performance, political donors and pundits remain clueless as to the eventual nature of the 2020 presidential race. While announcements trickle in and rumors abound, Americans looking for an alternative to the gaggle of sycophants cosplaying as an administration have yet to see much in the vein of actual campaigning. Still, while antsy prognosticators and curious voters debate over their dream tickets in lieu of polling data and actual primary votes, Americans on both sides are keenly aware of outsize role money is certain to play in the coming presidential election, perhaps more than any previous cycle.
Former Starbucks CEO and chairman Howard Schultz has plenty of money. Having amassed $3.4 billion by Forbes estimation, due in large part to his role in turning Starbucks into the international behemoth we’ve come to know, few would fault him for attempting to play kingmaker during the run-up to 2020. The longtime democrat has made no secret of his loyalties, or his politics. Starting with Ferguson, Mo., then-chairman and CEO of the coffee giant, Schultz oversaw Starbucks’ initiative to expand into lower-and-middle income neighborhoods, offering its vaunted benefits package to employees at every stop.
But while coffee and community outreach may have come easy to Brooklyn-born business savant, politics ain’t coffee.
After announcing his plan to run for President “as a centrist independent, outside of the two-party system” on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Schultz has spent the last few days getting ardently, vociferously dunked on by hecklers, Democrats, and even President Peach himself.
Sunday, former San Antonio Mayor and current presidential hopeful Julian Castro told CNN that Schultz’s campaign would give Trump his best chance at re-election. Speaking to Jake Tapper, Castro warned Schultz “to truly think about the negative impact that that might make,” on the upcoming election.
Dan Pfeiffer, former communications director for President Obama, criticized Schultz’s decision on Twitter, calling it a “half-baked idea” that he believed would “pose an existential threat to a Democrat in what will likely be 2020 race decided by a few votes in a handful of states.”
It’s also worth noting that Pfieffer’s opinion was nearly drowned out by a sea of responses in what may be the single worst reply-to-retweet-to-like ratio Twitter has ever seen.
Trump, likely encouraged by the possibility of a spoiler for the ages (think Nader but with personality and money) had a few words (spoken at a fourth-grade level, of course) for Schultz.
“I agree with him that he is not the ‘smartest person’,” Trump said via Twitter. “I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!”
Speaking Monday at a book event at a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, Schultz was interrupted mere moments into his appearance.
“Don’t help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire asshole!” shouted a heckler in the crowd. “Go back to getting ratioed on Twitter. Go back to Davos with the other billionaire elite who think they know how to run the world!”
Schultz went on to identify his platform as one of basic, centrist hogwash.
“If you kind of look at the tea leaves today, it appears that the Democratic Party is shifting far, far left with very strong, progressive ideas,” he said.
“I believe that if I ran as a Democrat,” he continued, “I would have to say things that I know in my heart I do not believe, and I would have to be disingenuous. For example, what the progressive, left-leaning Democratic Party is suggesting is government-paid health care for everyone, which is free, and government-paid college for everyone.”
When pressed as to whether he could be swayed by a rejiggering of the democratic message, Schultz remained unmoved. “I don’t think their views represent the majority of Americans,” he said. “I don’t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America, and I certainly don’t think we can afford the things they’re suggesting.”
That’s.....not what.....never mind.
While Schultz certainly didn’t amass a fortune of more than three thousand million dollars by listening to the likes of us (or even Trump, for that matter), he might want to heed the words of America’s OG will-he-wont-he rich dude, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“Given the strong pull of partisanship and the realities of the Electoral College system,” said Bloomberg, himself mulling a White House bid, “there is no way an independent can win.”
“In 2020,” he continued, “the great likelihood is that an independent would just split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the president. That’s a risk I refused to run in 2016 and we can’t afford to run it now.”
Schultz, when confronted with the round, near-universal disapproval of his potential candidacy, was as defiant as you’d expect a billionaire to be.
“I’m not trying to win the Twitter primary,” he quipped.
Schultz is right to put little stock in the musings of Twitter users. He’s even smarter to avoid a man who employs the services of Rudy Giuliani. Still, if Schultz is as smart as the halo effect would make him out to be, he might want to listen to history.