Nearly a dozen Democrats are already running for president. The highlights so far include an interview about immigration livestreamed from a dental chair, a former Harvard professor popping a beer like jes' plain folks on New Year's Eve, and a draconian former prosecutor pledging her allegiance to Wakanda. Democrats are tripping over each other to pitch Medicare for All, Free College for All, Guaranteed Jobs for All, and laying taxes on wealth as well as income.
And then there's Howard Schultz.
The former CEO of Starbucks is considering a run for president as a "centrist independent." He says that the national debt threatens economic growth, that we shouldn't demonize successful entrepreneurs, and that the government can't be all things to all people.
That brought public hate, contempt, and character assassination from every conceivable angle.
It's not just anti-globalist lefties on the attack. The New York Times' op-ed page says he's narcissistic, delusional, and fanatical. His potential run, his critics claim, would be nothing short of "reckless idiocy."
But Schultz's belief that neither major party represents America is widely shared. A plurality of Americans don't identify with either party. And nearly three-quarters of us think the country is headed in the wrong direction, which helps to explain why neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump won a majority of the popular vote in 2016.
The two-party duopoly and its supporters in the media understand how widely disliked they are, which is why they want to kneecap anyone who isn't on Team Red or Team Blue.
You don't have to agree with Schultz to understand that having more voices and ideas on the table at this point in the election cycle is a good thing—especially when you consider the alternatives.
Democrats fear people such as Schultz because they think he will drain votes from whoever their nominee ends up being, giving Trump a path to re-election. But that's actually a faulty analysis.
Former Republican Rep. John Anderson was blamed for pulling votes from Jimmy Carter in 1980, but almost half his supporters would have gone with Reagan as their second choice.
In 1992, the GOP fingered Ross Perot as a political saboteur, but the 19 percent of Americans who pulled the lever for the Texas Billionaire were equally split between Bush and Clinton as their fallback. In 2016, socially liberal and fiscally conservative voters—Schultz's demographic—broke for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, suggesting the coffee-shop magnate would pull votes from the incumbent president rather than his Democratic challenger.
Four years ago, during his attempt to win the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) complained that we don't "need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants." If variety in armpit aroma isn't his thing, I'd like to believe that the Vermont socialist would at least favor more choice at the ballot box. Right now, there are more forms of hepatitis than viable political parties in America.
So it's kind of fitting that the former CEO of a company that introduced infinite choice in coffee drinks is now being dragged for threatening to expand the political spectrum all the way from A to C. If American politics can't stand even the possibility of an independent candidate who praises capitalism, opposes massive tax increases, and wants to reduce federal debt, we're already screwed.
Edited by Mark McDaniel. Cameras by Jim Epstein. Graphics by Joshua Swain.
Photo Credits: David Becker/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Brian Cahn/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Brian Cahn/TNS/Newscom. Rick Friedman/Polaris/Newscom; Imagine China/Newscom; Everett Collection/Newscom; Arnie Sachs/SIPA/Newscom; Mark Reinstein/ZUMA Press/Newscom; JASON REDMOND/REUTERS/Newscom