The announcement by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz that he is
seriously considering running for president as an independent has
set off alarm bells for many Democratic Party strategists who see a
Schultz candidacy as a threat to the success of their party’s challenge
to the re-election of Republican President Donald Trump next year.
Billionaire Schultz won’t like be dissuaded by such arguments. Ross
Perot ignored similar warnings from Republicans in 1992 and 1996
when he ran as an independent. In fact, for a brief time in 1992 he
even led incumbent GOP President George H.W. Bush and
Democratic nominee Bill Clinton in the national polls, finally getting
almost twenty million votes --- and arguably enabling Clinton to win.
Since1948, major independent presidential candidates have won
millions of votes, and sometimes altered the outcomes. Former
Democrats, Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond tried to defeat
Harry Truman in 1948 (Thurmond even won a number of electoral
votes), but Truman won anyway. George Wallace ran as an independent
in 1968, and might have cost Hubert Humphrey the election against
Richard Nixon. John Anderson got more than five million votes in1980,
but did not affect Ronald Reagan’s election that year. Ralph Nader only
received about three million votes in 2000, but the election was so close
his votes in Florida prevented the election of Democrat Al Gore against
George W. Bush.
In addition to one-time independent presidential candidates, certain
fringe third parties run candidates every cycle, including the Libertarian
Party, Green Party, and the Socialist Party, and gain votes
in some states. These parties sometimes do affect who wins U.S. house,
U.S. senate and gubernatorial races.
The recent rise of billionaires in U.S. politics, both as candidates and
major funders, has especially helped the Democratic Party, although
most funders avoid political labels, often giving to both parties.
Michael Bloomberg ran for and won races for mayor of New York as a
Republican, but is now running for president as a Democrat.
Bloomberg, Perot, Donald Trump, and Schultz have the resources
to run without asking anyone for money, and can qualify for places on
state ballots on their own, (Trump chose to run for president as a
Republican, and ironically spent less on his 2016 campaign than did his
The mega-rich candidates can hire consultants, do unlimited polling,
employ staff members, and travel at will on their own.
In 2020, the Democrats seem bent so far on nominating either an elderly
figure or one with a relatively radical program ideology (or both).
Howard Schultz says he is running because he does not feel comfortable
with any such likely Democratic nominee, nor is he comfortable with
President Trump. As a political centrist, Schultz seeks to tap into the
historically large number of centrist U.S. voters who often determine
When Ross Perot ran in 1992, he was a businessman with no elective
experience, nor was he particularly charismatic, but he successfully
appealed to millions of voters with his centrist approach to issues, even
at one point, leading the two major party nominees in the national polls.
I suspect that the more Democrats try to bully Howard Schultz out of
the 2020 presidential race, the more he is likely to remain in it ---
especially if he feels his candidacy begins to resonate with voters.
What does he have to lose?
This is only one of the early political dramas that will now play out
as the curtain rises on the 2020 presidential cycle.
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.