Of all of the recent entrants — and potential entrants — into the 2020 presidential race, Howard Schultz's presidential ambitions as an independent have drawn some of the fiercest snap-backs, especially among Democrats.
The Overarching View of Schultz by Democrats
He is viewed as a potential spoiler for whomever the Democrats nominate as their candidate. While he is not viewed as having any possibility of winning the election, some do see him as potentially peeling off just enough anti-Trump votes to negatively impact the Democratic candidate and giving President Trump a victory in his re-election bid.
How Schultz Could Be a Spoiler According to the Democrats
1. Turning 2020 Into a Three-Person Race
Some refer to this as the "Perot Effect." Having a "viable" third-party candidate in the race, even if their support is in the sub-19 percent level, can be detrimental. This is especially true if your party's candidate and the independent candidate are positioning themselves to be the anti-Trump candidate.
Of course, there isn't any polling that would suggest that Schultz would garner the level of popular support that Perot did in 1992. In that election, Perot finished third with just under 19 percent of the popular vote.
2. Stealing Some Centrist Thunder
Who the Democrats will nominate as their candidate for 2020 is not yet known. However, the list of those seeking the nomination is going to be a long one. With the entire spectrum of the party on display during the primaries — from the far left to the centrists, the more socialist elements to the establishment corporatists, the newer face of the party to the old guard — the chances of a bitter, nearly schismatic, showdown within the party is not out of the realm of possibility.
Whoever emerges victorious as the Democratic candidate will then have to not only be an effective political campaigner but also an internal party healer. Having an independent candidate who is likely to forge an image of himself as a "centrist," while not hurting the Democrats in solidly blue states, can create a disproportionately negative impact in purple states and other areas where Trump won in 2016 but in which he may be vulnerable in 2020.
The presence of Schultz would make it tougher for the democratic candidate to heal the wounds caused by the primaries in order to effectively coalesce a unified front going into election day.
What Would a Schultz Platform Look Like?
As Schultz has not officially announced his candidacy — it is currently in the exploratory stage — he has not released an official position paper. One can only presume what his platform would consist of based on his political views, comments, and actions that he has made in the past as well as from his latest book, "From the Ground Up."
- He endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016
- Supports a pathway for citizenship for Dreamers
- Has referred to the concept of providing Medicare to all as "not American"
- Has criticized Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her idea of raising the marginal tax rate to 70 percent for those with incomes over $10 million
- Labeled Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax proposal as being "ridiculous"
- Has described the national debt as a threat to the country
- Supports "comprehensive tax reform"
- Advocates for improved border security but is "anti-wall"
- Reviews of his latest book indicate Schultz weaves a narrative in support of big business with a "social conscience"
Honestly, the Schultz political amalgamate resembles more of a hodgepodge of political tags that are deemed as "relevant" by pollsters and pundits and not so much as a solid alloy of true political grit that would inspire a large swath of the electorate.
So, Is Schultz Serious About 2020?
This question was asked of Trump in 2016 and 2012. While the debate continues as to whether Trump ever really thought he could become president or not, the same question related to Schultz has already started.
Most of the reasoning circulating as to why Schultz would be serious about a presidential run is rather lean on substance.
1. He is a billionaire, theoretically able to seed his own campaign until it develops traction on its own.
2. Speculation about his presidential ambitions dates as far back as 2012.
3. Truly believes he can do it.
Reasoning as to why it may be more of an exposure play than a serious attempt.
1. He is using it as arbitrage to become an "influencer" of centrist political ideas. Someone whom both parties would have to go to and "kiss the ring" for support and donations in the future.
2. A way to expand his personal brand.
3. Vanity and ego
He Will or He Won't — Maybe That's NOT the Key Takeaway
It is impossible to predict what a Schultz entrance into the 2020 race would actually be like. In 2015 everyone viewed Trump as an absolute impossibility to get his party's nomination much less win the presidency and we all know how that ended.
If Schultz gets in, there will be a large group of people proclaiming that he has no chance while others will be alarmists about his candidacy. The media would likely echo both narratives based on what draws the best ratings.
There is always the possibility that for whatever reason his presence engenders a following — a movement of sorts. Not so much due to an adherence to his message or persona, but rather out of a perceived need by the electorate for a legitimate third choice — a cementing of disgruntlement not based on party lines but rather against entrenched political paradigms fostered by both Democrats and Republicans.
Yes, that is likely far-fetched. I, personally, do not see that scenario playing out. I figure that he will either not get into the race at all or fizzle out early if he does. I don't think that he will rise to the position of being a "spoiler" as the Democrats fear.
However, if the name of Howard Schultz were to be destined to resonate across political history, it will most likely be due to pent-up feelings within the electorate that are currently not being contemplated by pundits and the political class — not so much due to the personality or presence of Schultz himself.
© 2019 Maria Sol