Schultz 2020: A Dangerous Case of Political Arrogance

Oscar Kim Bauman, Scarlet Staff

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Last month, Howard Schultz, the billionaire and former CEO of Starbucks, announced his intent to run for president in 2020 as a self-described “centrist independent.”

His still-hypothetical campaign, rather than being motivated by a genuine political vision for the United States, is built off of reactionary fear of a new Democratic Party that goes against his personal interests. Such actions represent a spiteful spirit of entitlement that could very well serve to give us a second term of Trump.

While Schultz may not be running as a Republican, he is evidently running against Democrats. He has indicated that his run was primarily motivated by a distaste for the progressive policy positions of many Democratic leaders.

Despite once calling himself a “lifelong Democrat,” Schultz has spent his entire fledgling proto-campaign attacking prominent Democrats, including presidential candidates including California Senator Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, as well as newly-elected New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The tone of Schultz’s attacks can focus more on the petty and personal than policy. On January 30th, he retweeted a column from discussing his run for the presidency, praising its “thoughtful analysis.” Said analysis included referring to Senator Harris as a “shrill … quasi-socialist,” and Senator Warren as a “Fauxcahontas,” a jab at her claim to Native American ancestry that Native American leaders have condemned as a racial slur.

When it comes to policy, Schultz is reactionary. He has been particularly harsh on Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to raise the marginal tax rate on annual income over $10 million to 70%, citing it in interviews as one of the things which drove him to leave the Democratic Party.

In an interview with CNBC, he said “I don’t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America.” Yet the polling shows otherwise. A poll from Hills-HarrisX found that 59% of voters specifically support Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, and one from Fox News found that 70% supported the general idea of raising taxes on multimillionaires.

In fact, it is Schultz’s views, not those of progressive Democrats, that are unpopular. Schultz is socially liberal and economically conservative, and assumes many Americans to also be so.

However, as Michelle Goldberg noted in a January 28th New York Times column, a 2017 study by political scientist Lee Drutman found that only 3.8% of 2016 voters fell into the same category. Schultz does not represent the views of the American people. Rather, he represents the increasingly irrelevant view of his own plutocratic circle.

Schultz is entirely ignorant about the way a government works, or purposefully disingenuous. In an event promoting his new book, he claimed that if a private company had the kind of debt the American government had, it “would be facing insolvency,” overlooking that governments, unlike companies, do not seek to sell products for a profit. As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted in response, “if all the US government did was sell overpriced coffee and grown-up milkshakes, it would be a total failure as a government.”

It is hardly surprising that a lifelong businessman may misunderstand how the government works, but it is shocking that such a person would assume he would be capable of running said government.

To his credit, Schultz has identified one positive message for his campaign: he wants to heal America’s political divisions. Perhaps a good place to start would be to stop dismissing differing ideologies as un-American. Schultz has called Senator Harris’ proposal of Medicare for all “not American.”

Similarly, he called Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s belief that the existence of billionaires in a country where so many live in poverty is a policy failure as “so un-American.” It is this hostility, this instinct to brand opposing ideologies as anti-American, that is the central problem with Schultz’s modus operandi.

There are myriad other issues to be had with a Schultz 2020 campaign. The largest is the fear that, in claiming a large portion of anti-Trump independent votes, he will act as a spoiler and ensure a second Trump term.

There are arguments to be made that Schultz would have fared well running under either major party; he would have presented a more moderate option for Democrats, and shown Republicans what a genuinely successful, self-made billionaire looks like. The biggest problem, however, with Schultz’s public toying with a campaign is the mindset of entitlement that lies at its core.

Schultz grew up in housing projects, and, at the age of 65, is a recipient of Medicare. Yet he rails against allowing such programs to help more people in the name of keeping more of his immense wealth.

Rather than a genuine interest to help the American people, a Schultz 2020 presidential campaign would be motivated by an egotistical, reactionary desire to have things go exactly the way he desires, at the cost of the beliefs of over 96% of Americans.