The former Starbucks CEO is considering an independent run for the Presidency and while Democrat activists are apoplectic, Shultz could save them from themselves.
But I doubt it.
Normally, an independent candidate comes from the fringes of party politics or outside the system. The most notable in recent memory was Ross Perot’s first run in 1992. Perot is widely believed to have tilted the election to then Governor Bill Clinton. Perot came from outside the system. He drew pretty evenly from the parties in his run. Another example, Ralph Nader is the example from the parties’ fringe. He is widely blamed for Al Gore’s Florida loss. But again, the numbers never really backed that up. Like Perot, he was more of convenient target.
As a political scientist and he or she will tell you is that third party candidates tend to change the makeup of the electorate more than draw from one side or the other. The people that come out to vote for these independent candidates tend to be people who wouldn’t otherwise vote. They roughly earn equal amounts of protests votes from members of the two parties. Remove Perot and Nader from the picture in 1992 and 2000 the likely outcome would have been the same.
So then, who cares… right?
The reason why I would urge caution while enjoying the schadenfreude of Howard Shultz’s candidacy, it should be mentioned that he could do a number of things that would be more of bug to Republicans boon. First, Shultz is not crazy when you compare him to the current state of the Democratic Party. This may make him more attractive to potential protest voters in 2020. That alone may force some sanity on the Democrats. We already see some of that with the suddenly tempered support for Medicare for All.
While President Trump enjoys strong support among self-identified Republicans, under President Trump the number of self-identified Republicans gets smaller. As we entered the 2018, mid-term elections for example, Republican identifiers had dropped by 5 percentage points. Sure Republican identifiers support Trump upwards of 90 percent, there are just fewer Republicans. A sane, moderate seeming Democrat not hell bent on retribution may be enticed to come out to vote against Trump and President Trump just doesn’t have that kind of margin.
Real damage to Republicans could occur down ballot. An independent candidacy that is moderately left can change the pool of voters. Democrats turned off by their Party’s extreme positions are not going to vote for Republicans down ballot. Instead of fending off the crazies, GOP candidates will have to take time, money and effort to attract the disaffected. This will not help them with the Trump true believers. See the mess?
Shultz is talking about debt and spending issues. He has criticized Medicare for All from the center and has pointed out that no one really wants 70% income tax rates. He referred to these as un-American. This is the Bill Clinton wing of the Democratic party, not the Sanders/Warren/Cortez wing. With voters who remember the 1990’s as not so bad, this could have some appeal.
In these early stages of the primary, Democrats are racing to the farthest reaches of the left. They are running on not just redistribution as Obama did 2008, but on retribution. Consider the extreme positions being offered. Democrats in New York passed an abortion law that legalizes infanticide. The same was offered Virginia only to go down in flames, but not before doing serious damage to the Governor and the bill’s sponsor. Before she was forced to walk it back, Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) endorsed the idea of eliminating private insurance. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has proposed a wealth tax—not to fund anything but to punish “the rich.” Gun control is not only back, it is now officially gun registration/confiscation.
With media padlocked on President Trump’s reality show, no one has really been paying attention to the Democrats. With the Washington press corps’ cover, the extremists have dominated. A Shultz candidacy – or any sane candidate running in the Primary for that matter — has the opportunity to bring the party back from the brink. While fun to watch, it is ultimately portend bad news Republican party in 2020.
Enjoy Republicans, but be forewarned.