Former Starbucks CEO and billionaire Howard Schultz teased the possibility of an independent 2020 Presidential run in an interview with “60 Minutes.” Howard Schultz, worth an estimated $3.4 billion, has since detailed a “centrist” platform to appeal to the “silent majority” of Americans. While independent candidates rarely affect the outcomes of elections, they also rarely have a multi-billion dollar checkbook at their disposal. Entering the field as both an independent and a billionaire is not for the “silent majority,” it’s for taking all of America hostage. By running as an independent, Schultz will force the Democratic party to cede their candidacy to him or simply cause the re-election of Trump.
Either way, he wins.
In 2000, Republican George Bush narrowly won the presidency against Democrat Al Gore. One of the reasons for this was Green Party candidate Ralph Nader siphoning votes away from Gore to himself. The total campaign budget of the Green Party that year was a measly $5 million, which proved enough to swing the election. This makes the notion of Schultz’s potentially billion-dollar campaign a terrifying prospect. His mere presence on the ballot may be enough to re-elect Trump.
Why would Schultz take such a big risk? Because either way, he and fellow billionaires win. Schultz has labelled such ideas as raising taxes on billionaires -to a point they were previously at- and medical care for all as “un-American” and “extreme.” Schultz sees the Democratic platform, which may include these policies in the future, as an extreme leftist reaction to Trump’s extreme right actions. Yet the ideas being put forth by Democrats really are not that extreme, and would stand to benefit the large majority of Americans. Americans pay the most money per capita on health care in the developed world, far more than any country with single-payer healthcare. The only minority that would be hurt by such policies would be the very small minority of ultra-wealthy citizens.
While Schultz claims a centrist platform, he has been a lifelong Democrat, favoring abortion rights and gun control. However, while his platform leans to the left, it stops right where progressive policies would begin to affect him negatively. Policies including enacting single payer healthcare or a debt free college system would require taxing the ultra wealthy, meaning less money for Schultz. His Twitter account has aggressively addressed such policies and the Democratic candidates who endorse them. Absent from Schultz’s targeting is the President. While Schultz has called Trump “unqualified” for the Presidency, his jabs stop there. Knocking out Democrats appears to be Schultz’s top priority, as their potential to do damage to him far exceeds that of the President.
Schultz represents a new breed of Plutocrat, emboldened by Trump to directly seek out political change. This new group of billionaires disguises its member’s fortunes as well-deserved rewards for years of hard work, yet ignores the mass exploitation they enacted to accrue such wealth. The shroud of effective billionaire philanthropy is beginning to fade, with left-wing members of Congress such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez garnering huge support online for the taxation of the mega-rich. Schultz’s movement to dismiss these ideas as “un-American” is merely his attempt at shifting the narrative.
In calling himself an Independent, Schultz tries to play the part of a well-meaning, concerned citizen. Touting his belief that extreme politics in either direction hurt everyone, he presents himself as the only level-headed candidate on the field. However, throwing yourself in the middle of a race does not immediately qualify you as the political middle ground. While Schultz’s claim that extreme politics ultimately damage the country holds merit, Trump’s extreme policies have already delivered a catastrophic blow to our democracy. Baby steps in response to Trump’s full-on sprint won’t have any effect on our system. An extreme move may be required to fix our country, and the billionaire class may pay the price.
Nicolas Perez is a Literary Journalism/English double major. He can be reached at email@example.com.