The dozens of Americans who have been thirsting for former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to take on President Trump in 2020 were treated to some good news Sunday night. The 65-year-old business executive said in an interview with 60 Minutes that he is preparing to mount a presidential campaign, one in which he would run as a “centrist independent, outside of the two-party system.” Schultz described himself as a “lifelong Democrat” in the same interview, but said he is fed up with how extreme both sides have grown, citing the ballooning national debt as the core of their failure to uphold their “constitutional responsibility.”
“We’re living at a most-fragile time,” said Schultz. “Not only the fact that this president is not qualified to be the president, but the fact that both parties are consistently doing what is necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged every single day in revenge politics.”
If he runs, Schultz says it will be as a “centrist independent” even though he has long identified as a Democrat. pic.twitter.com/EsIIbMCp1m
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) January 28, 2019
Trump responded as expected Monday morning. “I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!” the president tweeted, reminding followers that he never divested from his business.
Howard Schultz doesn’t have the “guts” to run for President! Watched him on @60Minutes last night and I agree with him that he is not the “smartest person.” Besides, America already has that! I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2019
“I think, like most people, I’ve become bored with President Trump and his tweets,” Schultz said on 60 Minutes.
Democrats did not take kindly to Schultz’s announcement, arguing that his campaign would only serve to boost Trump’s chances of winning re-election. Schultz would have a minuscule chance of victory — if that — and would likely be stripping votes from a Democrat with a real chance to take down Trump. Schultz isn’t worried. “I want to see the American people win,” he said. “I want to see America win. I don’t care if you’re Democrat, independent, Libertarian, Republican. Bring me your ideas. I will be an independent person who will embrace those ideas, because I am not, in any way, in bed with a party.”
Shortly after the 60 Minutes interview aired, Schultz created a Twitter account. It hasn’t gone well.
I love our country, and I am seriously considering running for president as a centrist independent.
— Howard Schultz (@HowardSchultz) January 28, 2019
More than 30,000 people have replied to the tweet with near-universal disdain. The responses range from earnest pleas for Schultz to reconsider and instead help the United States by using his $3.5 billion to combat threats like climate change, to more succinct exhortations like “suck my ass” and “Fuck off, coffee bitch.”
Here are a few other replies:
The consultants who are telling you you have any chance of doing anything other than embarrassing yourself and giving us four more years of Trump are blowing smoke up your ass because they want your money. Give it to charity instead.
— Seth Hanlon (@SethHanlon) January 28, 2019
If Howard Schultz were "seriously thinking" about an independent run for president, he would have abandoned the idea already. I've had undergrad students with a more compelling platform than Schultz offered tonight. @60Minutes https://t.co/pQUxXftruy
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) January 28, 2019
I’m an American political historian and I can assure you that the only thing you’ll accomplish by running for president as a centrist independent is helping re-elect Donald Trump.
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) January 28, 2019
HOWARD SCHULTZ: I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing it for America.
AMERICA: sir, your logo is your name with your name written over it. pic.twitter.com/nCH3lMNbo4
— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) January 28, 2019
Literally just get up tomorrow morning and match Bill Gates contributions to vaccines and you'll do more for the world than this entire vanity project.
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) January 28, 2019
Sir, this is a Peet's.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) January 28, 2019
Schultz’s wouldn’t be the first third-party candidate to spoil an election for Democrats. In 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received close to three percent of the national popular vote, and if even a fraction of his votes in Florida or New Hampshire would have instead gone to Al Gore, George W. Bush would have lost. Green Party Candidate Jill Stein played a similar role in the 2016 election, although her impact was far less consequential than that of Nader.
Schultz defended the viability of his unaffiliated approach by noting that more Americans are registered as Independent than as Democrat or Republican. “The American people are exhausted,” he said. “Their trust has been broken. And they are looking for a better choice.”
Exhausted as Americans may be, it’s unlikely that Schultz, who has the charisma of a soy milk latte, or his platform, which dismisses the idea of universal health care and seems bizarrely focused on alleviating the national debt, will gain traction with voters. The most concerning part of his announcement Sunday may be that despite the long odds, Schultz seems determined to mount a full-throated run at the White House, even if it costs him $500 million of his own money.
“We’ll be fully resourced to do what is necessary,” he said.