A Howard Schultz independent run for president?

Howard Schultz hasn’t decided whether he will run for president. However, the former Starbucks CEO seems clear that if he does run, he’ll do so as an independent, not as Democrat. This despite Schultz’s longstanding affiliation with the Dems.

Democrats seem beside themselves at the prospect of Schultz running as an independent. They are worried that Schultz will siphon off anti-Trump votes, thus increasing the likelihood Trump will be reelected.

But from Schultz’s perspective, running as an independent makes far more sense than running as a Democrat for two related reasons. First, the Democrats will never nominate Schultz. He isn’t radical enough. As one Democratic operative asked: “What’s Schultz’s value proposition for America, make America like a corporate chain?” A white male Democratic candidate needs to bring more to the table than that.

Second, because Schultz isn’t radical enough for the Democratic party, he may well believe America needs an alternative both to Trump and to whichever social justice warrior and identity politics monger the Democrats select. Indeed, Schultz says that “both parties are consistently not doing what’s necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged, every single day, in revenge politics.”

Lots of Americans agree with this critique. Thus, it’s understandable that Schultz contemplates running as an independent. His prior affiliation with the Democrats is irrelevant if Schultz believes (as well he should) that the Dems have radically departed from that which drew him to the party.

If I had to guess, though, I’d say Schultz won’t run. Not because he’s afraid of helping Trump, but because he will fear gaining no traction. The 2020 election will likely be a referendum on the president, with those disapproving of Trump voting overwhelmingly for the Democrat even if it means holding their nose.

However, I sense that we’re approaching the time when an independent or third party candidate will be a strong force in a presidential election. The GOP isn’t likely to become less conservative and the Democrats aren’t likely to stop moving leftward. Thus, the space for someone claiming to be a sensible centrist will keep growing. In bad economic times, and we’re bound to have some, that space will be all the larger.

The last time a third candidate made a substantial run for president was 1992, fairly bad economic times or so it was said. In that election, the GOP candidate was a “kinder, gentler” conservative and the Democratic candidate ran as a “new Democrat,” not wedded to the party’s liberal past. Thus, the space for Ross Perot’s centrist candidacy was not huge. Nonetheless, he did fairly well.

With the centrist space widening by the day, I don’t see why a latter day Perot couldn’t mount a serious challenge for the presidency. But I don’t think it will happen in 2020.

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