Independent candidates don’t have a long history of winning elections, but they do have a long history of playing spoiler. In a tight race, even a few percentage points taken away from one candidate or another due to the presence of a third-party option can mean all the difference.
In recent history, it has been the Republican Party that has felt the impact of third-party candidates the most given that the Libertarian party is the most influential party outside of the main two, and most Libertarian voters lean Republican. Now, though, Republicans may be in a position to benefit from a major independent candidate.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has announced that he is seriously considering running for President as an independent in 2020. Schultz is a lifelong member of the Democratic Party who claims that he is leaving the party due to the fact that Democrats have shifted too far to the left on issues of taxes and spending.
However, Schultz does still share common ground with the Democratic Party on social issues and many other policies, meaning that his campaign would almost certainly pull a majority of its votes from whatever Democratic candidate ends up facing off against Donald Trump in 2020.
The 2020 election is “do or die” for the Democratic Party. After years of portraying Donald Trump as a deeply unpopular and disliked President, the party simply cannot afford to lose to him again. Combine this with their hatred for President Trump, and the 2020 election becomes one of the most important elections for Democrats in modern history.
Given how much the party has riding on this election, many prominent Democrats are none too pleased with Howard Schultz and his potential decision to run as an independent.
Backlash against Schultz from the Democrats has already been severe. Many leaders and prominent figures within the party have spoken out against the Independent candidate and have condemned him saying that the only thing he is going to accomplish is ensuring another four years under President Trump.
Leftist filmmaker Michael Moore even called for a boycott of Starbucks to pressure Schultz into changing his mind, and several protests erupted during Schultz’s recent book tour visit to New York City.
So far, there is evidence that this backlash may be working. Sources close to Howard Schultz say that he is “freaked out” by the intensity of the backlash against him within the Democratic Party and that it has forced him to rethink his decision.
However, his advisor, Bill Burton, maintains that Schultz is undeterred by the backlash, saying in a statement, “There is a big difference between the noise coming out of the beltway and what the American people are telling us. And while there has been a lot of shouting from the professional political class, Howard is undeterred. These issues are too important to let the loudest voices decide them before the American people have their say.”
Still, it’s hard to imagine that Schultz believes he has any real chance to win the Presidency. The two-party system in the United States presents far too many significant obstacles for third-party and independent candidates. Simply getting his name on the ballot in all 50 states will be an uphill battle for Schultz if he decides to run.
If he does manage to get on the ballot in all 50 states – which most independent candidates don’t – Schultz will still have to deal with the reality that he won’t be invited to any major Presidential debates and the reality that the vast majority of voters are never going to view him as a serious option.
The question isn’t whether or not Howard Schultz can win – it’s whether or not he will be able to pull enough votes away from the Democratic Party to guarantee Trump a second term.
On that front, Howard Schultz has a real chance of succeeding. The 2020 election is already shaping up to be a hotly contested election. Donald Trump’s approval ratings have been slipping ever so slightly as of late, but he is still an incumbent President going up against a party that is struggling to find its identity and lacking major starpower. In a tight scenario such as this, Howard Schultz’s name on the ballot may be just the edge that President Trump needs.