There’s no question. Howard Schultz is one of the most successful businessmen in international history. His company, the iconic coffee shop Starbucks, is found all over the world, and was a game changer for international culture. The company became a folk hero among progressives, for it’s numerous social justice initiatives.
Schultz is now seriously considering a run for president as an independent. On paper, Schultz seems like a great candidate. He has all the money a candidate could want, and a very well-known and respected name. But that’s where the positives of his potential candidacy ends.
Schultz appears to be building a platform on centrist positions. He once called himself a ‘lifelong Democrat.’ But recently, he is unhappy with the economic positions of progressive Democratic presidential candidates like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. But he remains a progressive on social issues, such as gun control and gay rights. This appears to be the same platform that got Bill Clinton elected in the 90s.
But in Bill Clinton’s era, politicians had to be centrist, and take positions that wouldn’t upset the status quo, in order to get elected. But times have changed, and the days of the moderate politician are all but gone. In 2019, politics is more or less a battlefield where conservatives will battle progressives for legislative control of America, without any real hope of compromise.
Schultz’s bid for an independent candidacy for presidency has incensed many liberals, who fear he will siphon off enough progressive votes to guarantee Trump a second term, the way Green Party candidate Jill Stein did in 2016. But Schultz does not have a natural electorate in the era of hyper-partisanship.
Voters really aren’t looking for the centrist pragmatist anymore, in the mold of a Clinton. People on both sides of the political spectrum are angry. Donald Trump got elected because he tapped into the fury and uncertainty among conservative voters. Hillary Clinton, whom Schultz seems to be emulating, was a centrist who took great strides to come across as a status quo politician.
In a low turnout primary, her name coupled with legions of voters eager to elect a woman president was enough to secure the nomination. But when Clinton had to rely on the broader progressive coalition to win a general election, centrism wouldn’t get progressive voters to the polls.
And that’s the problem Schultz faces. Clinton had a perfect storm at her back to almost push her centrist candidacy past the finish line. Schultz doesn’t have that storm pushing his candidacy, and moderate positions won’t gather that many votes in this current political climate, especially as an independent. Jill Stein was such a viable candidate because she was a proud liberal, when there wasn’t another strong liberal on the ticket. There will not even be a fraction of Stein voter’s passion for any centrist candidate.
Then Schultz has his business dealings to consider with any political run. Liberals across the country have begun vehemently opposing a Schultz candidacy. Just the other day, I was in a Starbucks, and I overheard a patron saying that she wouldn’t set foot in a Starbucks if Schultz ran and got Trump elected. Schultz is no longer Starbuck’s owner. But that company is his namesake and legacy. If he does run, and does act as an enabler to push Trump to a second term, would all of those progressive voters still pay for that expensive coffee? If the answer is no, that may be a cup of joe too bitter, even for a billionaire like Schultz.