Democrats want to make sure everyone votes, but they’re pretty darn picky about who runs.
Howard Schultz's recent announcement that he might run for president in 2020 as a “centrist independent” was about as welcome as a skunk at a picnic. Democrats everywhere immediately clobbered him, convinced that his candidacy would help reelect President Donald Trump.
Columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote an op-ed in the New York Times begging the former Starbucks CEO not to run what she described as a “narcissistic spoiler campaign for president,” while fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg deemed Schultz’s quest hopeless, “given the strong pull of partisanship and the realities of the Electoral College system.”
A political reporter for NBC News wrote a piece calling Schultz “The Democratic Party’s public enemy No. 1.”
The coffee magnate was even upbraided by a heckler at a Barnes & Noble book event who shouted, “Don’t help elect Trump, you egotistical a**hole ... Go back to Davos with the other billionaire elites who think they know how to run the world!”
Schultz appeared unmoved by the tsunami of opprobrium. In an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin, he challenged the notion that an independent candidate could not win, pointing out that some 42 percent of the country now views themselves as independent or not aligned with either party.
(Gallup actually has that figure at 39 percent, down from 46 percent at the end of 2017 but still above the 34 percent who proclaim themselves Democrats and the 25 percent who say they are Republicans.)
But the barista billionaire’s real point is that there are a boatload of both Democrats and Republicans who are dissatisfied with their respective parties and looking for something new. He might be right.
Democrats are promising low-income Americans ever-more expensive handouts like free college and “Medicare for all,” which they will not be able to deliver; Schultz’s alarms about our rising deficits blow those campaign pledges to smithereens.
When independents and Democrats were asked in a December poll who they would like to see as their candidate in 2020, 59 percent picked “someone entirely new.” That, despite having nine other people to choose from, including newcomers like Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Beto O’Rourke.
A more recent Washington Post-ABC News survey indicated similar apathy towards the evolving Democratic field, with 56 percent indicating “no preference.” No one in that poll attracted more than 9 percent of the votes.
The survey also showed one-third of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents wanting someone other than Trump for their party’s candidate. That’s at odds with still-high approval ratings for the president within his own party but suggests sentiment might be shifting.
Liberals aren’t just angry that Schultz might jeopardize a Democratic victory in 2020. His greater sin is that he has dared to spotlight the elephant in the room – the issue no one wants to talk about – our government’s massive spending problem. He calls our federal debt “the greatest threat domestically to the country” and he is correct.
Democrats are promising low-income Americans ever-more expensive handouts like free college and “Medicare for all,” which they will not be able to deliver. Schultz’s alarms about our rising deficits blow those campaign pledges to smithereens. As interest rates rise over time, the interest we will pay on our $21.5 trillion federal debt will crowd out our existing entitlement obligations, much less new benefits programs.
Over time, paying for our debt will either lead to rising tax rates, which will destroy our competitiveness and growth, or force us to crimp spending on items like defense, which will make our country weaker. It is not a pretty picture.
Schultz can talk about this while Republicans cannot. After all, it was the GOP in the wake of the financial crisis that wound itself up into a Tea Party, railing about bailouts and stimulus spending and towering deficits. It was the GOP that took over Congress, promising a new era of fiscal responsibility. And it was the GOP that then delivered even great deficits.
Democrats could assume the role of fiscal watchdog, but they won’t. Not with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Harris, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., running around promising to spend more and more of other people's money.
They argue that hiking taxes on the rich will pay for their grandiose plans, but sensible people know better. They know that our tax code is already extremely progressive, that the rich already pay their fair share and then some, and that billionaires are mobile.
Elsewhere, instituting a wealth tax, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has proposed, has driven rich people to other countries. Similarly, confiscatory rates on what Ocasio-Cortez calls the “tippy tops” historically have led to ingenious ways of evading the tax collector or, worse, less productivity from top earners. Few people will work harder and smarter just to see the government make off with their winnings.
Schultz, a life-long liberal, says he will not run as a Democrat because doing so would require him to “say things that I know in my heart I do not believe.” He blasts the party for “shifting far, far left with very strong, progressive ideas” and says he doesn’t “think their views represent the majority of Americans.”
Asked what he thought of Ocasio-Cortez’s depiction of billionaires as indicative of U.S. “policy failure,” Schultz had the temerity to say that the young congresswoman was “a bit misinformed.”
When asked if he would bow out of the race if it appeared his candidacy might reelect Donald Trump, Schultz said he would not “do anything to put Donald Trump back in the Oval Office.” According to Democrats, that would include the espresso billionaire running for president, something Michelle Goldberg describes as “megalomaniac recklessness.”
Citing studies, Goldberg argues that few Americans embrace Schultz’s “fiscally conservative but socially liberal” stance. If that is true, what are she and her fellow Democrats so worried about? Could it be they know that their lurch left has alienated many voters?
Or are they worried that candidate Howard Schultz might tell the truth about our fiscal position, and show voters how empty Democrats’ promises truly are?