Thank You, Howard Schultz

“I love our country.  I am seriously thinking of running for President as a centrist independent.”

For tweeting and repeating that sentiment, Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, received a remarkable public spanking this week.

The headlines were brutal.

Instead of applauding the willingness of a 65-year-old, Horatio Alger, an accomplished businessman, and a legitimate billionaire to enter the arena, he was lambasted and literally heckled.

At a book event this week in NYC, Schultz endured someone calling him an asshole.

He was peppered with questions and asked a ridiculous riddle about the price of Cheerios in the hope he’d be embarrassed out of the race.

The criticism came from the left, from Democrats concerned that his presence in the race would lead to Donald Trump’s re-election.

Howard Schultz, they would have us believe, would be the 2020 spoiler version of 1980’s John Anderson. Or 1992’s Ross Perot. Or Ralph Nader in 2000. Or 2016’s Jill Stein and Gary Johnson.

But that argument is belied by facts.

None of those candidates altered the course of those elections.

Ronald Reagan wiped out Jimmy Carter in 1980.

John Anderson captured only 6.6% of the vote and zero electoral votes. He may have altered the debate, but on election day, he was a non-entity.

In 1992, despite political lore, Ross Perot did not cost George H.W. Bush his re-election fight when facing Bill Clinton. Perot won 19% of the popular vote. But, no, Perot did not cost Bush the election, and if you think otherwise, watch “The Perot Myth” – a film from FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films.

Remember, Perot got out of the race in July and came back October 1st. When he joined the debates, he made an impact. And when it was over, he garnered 19% – the highest share for third-party since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.

But it’s not true that he took more from one or the other.

Exit polls show they would have split equally. Something Nate Silver confirms in the movie.

Ralph Nader gets the same blame for 2000. Overlooking that 250,000 Florida Democrats voted for Bush, or that Gore lost his home state of Tennessee.

And in 2016, Donald Trump didn’t win because of Jill Stein, or the two former governors who ran against him as the Libertarian ticket.

Trump won because he motivated his base to get out and vote better than Clinton did.

What – besides stereotyping – makes people assume that a Jill Stein voter would otherwise have cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton?

Or that a Johnson/Weld voter would have done likewise?

Plus remember this:

More eligible American voters sat out the 2016 presidential race than voted for either Trump or Clinton or the third party tickets.

If you’re still bitter about the outcome in 2016, I suggest you focus your energies on those who didn’t get off their ass. Or blame the faults of your favored candidate who provided them insufficient inspiration to vote.

Schultz said he wants to run as an independent centrist. If he does, he will be in good company. More Americans self-identify these days as Independents than Democrats or Republicans.

According to Gallup, 42% regard themselves as Independents, compared to 30% who say Democrat, and 26% say Republican.

By that logic, maybe Schultz should be telling the Democratic field to stand down less they ruin his shot?

If we learned one thing from 2016, it is that we know nothing about what the future holds. So let’s let this play out.

Obama Speechwriter Jon Favreau tweeted this:

“None of the explanations coming from Howard Schultz or his advisors answer a very simple question: if he thinks he has a winning message, why can’t he run in the Democratic primary? Why does he get to skip that contest? Just because he’s a billionaire? Would love an answer.”

Well, put this on your podcast.

Accepting Schultz at face value, he’s no longer comfortable being a Democrat.

And according to the Washington Post:

Citing a growing national debt, he says he opposes liberal proposals to provide people with free healthcare, college education, or guaranteed public jobs.

“We have to go after entitlements,” he said last year, though he has not described what that would mean for programs like Social Security and Medicare, which Democrats have vowed to protect.

And when Kamala Harris embraced Medicare for all and told Jake Tapper she’d get rid of insurance companies, Schultz said: “that’s not American”.

Look, the only people who should be upset about Schultz or any other legitimate third party candidate getting in are those satisfied with the status quo.

Count me out. The only way to break out of the two-party stranglehold is if we reject the same old choices. Apparently – 42% of Americans, a plurality, agree with me.

Most fundamentally this is America, everyone should be encouraged to participate and run.  The dynamics of a multi-candidate race are wholly unpredictable.

The naysayers on Schultz may be gladhanders in two years.