Starbucks Coffee? Great. Splitting the Democrat vote in one of the most important elections in the modern political era? Not great.
Washington’s own Howard Schultz has announced that he is “seriously considering” running for president as an independent candidate. Schultz is the former CEO of Starbucks and would run on a platform he describes as centrist, fiscally moderate and socially progressive. Should he choose to run, Schultz would face enormous odds, as no independent presidential candidate has ever won the presidency.
With the abysmal performance of all independent and third-party candidates in recent history, as well as his close positions to the Democrats on social issues, this is a confusing and seemingly senseless move by the polarizing billionaire.
The Benenson Strategy Group did a study exploring the feasibility of a Schultz presidency, and the results called for a little creamer as they certainly left Schultz’s camp with a bitter taste in the mouth.
The study looked at what states Schultz could potentially win, and labeled states that have consistently voted for one party or another over the last five elections unwinnable. States that did not meet this criterion or have been trending moderate in recent years were labeled as “battleground states.”
This assessment was extremely generous with the label of battleground. Both Texas and Oregon carried the label and yet neither has voted outside of their leanings in recent memory.
Even with this extremely optimistic and wildly unlikely estimation of what Schultz could win, he would fall short of the presidency with only 267 electoral votes of the 270 required for a victory.
If no candidate receives the 270 votes, which would be the case here, the decision rests on the house of representatives which the Republican Party currently controls, resulting in four more years of a Trump Presidency.
This scenario relies on Schultz flipping and winning every single “battleground” state identified, a contingency that is completely and entirely without precedent in modern America, and still results in a win for the incumbent candidate.
Another more likely outcome for Schultz (could we call his campaign a Starbucks run?) has been played out by independent candidates in the past: marginal support, massive expenses and votes taken away from the anti-incumbent party.
This narrative was most recently carried out by Ross Perot in 1992 when he received roughly 19 percent of the popular vote but gathered exactly zero electoral votes. This campaign was the most successful independent run for president since 1912 when former president Theodore Roosevelt ran for a third term. Perot only finished higher than third in the voting of two states, and subsequent studies estimated that he took roughly seven points off of Bill Clinton’s victory, who was running against incumbent George H.W Bush.
In today’s political landscape, the Democratic party cannot afford any portion of their base to branch off for an independent campaign while states like Wisconsin remain a true toss-up.
In three of the last four presidential elections Wisconsin has been decided by less than 1 percentage point. Should he choose to run against the express wishes of Democratic leaders and even fellow billionaire politician Michael Bloomberg, Schultz is likely to hand a 2020 win to Trump.
Schultz has cited his reason for only considering an independent campaign as being his fiscal differences with the Democratic Party.
“If I ran as a Democrat I would have to say things in my heart I do not believe,” Schultz said on an interview with 60 Minutes.
He hasn’t shied away from speaking his mind on a variety of popular Democratic policies either, he’s called universal health care “as false as the wall” and said that new proposed taxes on the ultra-wealthy are “un-American.”
Schultz’s confidence in his own ideas, qualification for the office of president and support base is impressive, but it begs the question: if he has such a base, has ideas that he believes will work and wants to see the current president out of office, why not just run as a Democrat?
His independent run is destined to fail from the start and voters that would turn out for him as an independent would most likely still vote for him.
Choosing to run as an independent candidate when we’ve seen Trump take a socially conservative and fiscally liberal agenda and win as a Republican makes little sense, as Schultz would essentially be doing the inverse of this. He would be running with social positions similar to that of the other Democrats but taking a more conservative approach to the budget. But, Schultz himself has said that he cannot see a world in which he runs as a Democrat, so his run as an independent is set to be nothing short of a venti-sized disaster.
Luke Kenneally is the photo editor. Follow him on Instagram: lukekphoto.