Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz took to Twitter Sunday to announce that he’s “seriously considering” running for president in 2020 as an independent. The billionaire’s announcement was quickly and brutally ripped by progressives—and some non-progressives too—who claimed that there were myriad better ways to help the country and that he’d likely help President Trump win re-election by jumping into the race.
“Running as an independent would be a catastrophic mistake,” said Matt Bennett, Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and a co-founder of the center-left think tank, Third Way.
Schultz, who left Starbucks last summer, teased his announcement with a separate tweet, noting that his intention was to “share my truth” and “to listen to yours.”
“I love our country, and I am seriously considering running for president as a centrist independent,” he wrote. “This moment is like no other. Our two parties are more divided than ever. Let’s discuss how we can come together to create opportunities for more people.”
Almost immediately, angry replies rolled in. One of the most common criticisms echoed those in The Washington Post piece that first broke the news of Schultz’s consideration of the presidential bid—that running as an independent would divert crucial votes from the Democratic Party’s nominee and help Trump’s chances.
“I’m an American political historian and I can assure you that the only thing you’ll accomplish by running for president as a centrist independent is helping re-elect Donald Trump,” tweeted @KevinMKruse.
“The consultants who are telling you you have any chance of doing anything other than embarrassing yourself and giving us four more years of Trump are blowing smoke up your ass because they want your money,” added @SethHanlon. “Give it to charity instead.”
Though Schultz is a well-known corporate entity, he is a political neophyte. He began flirting with a presidential bid months ago, bolstered by PR help from a group of advisers that included Steve Schmidt, who ran former Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. It’s unclear if Schmidt is still advising Schultz. He didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The Atlantic had reported that over the past year, Schultz sought out a series of consultants to bolster his image. Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist in 2008 and a long-time proponent of centrist politics, told The Daily Beast that he is not representing Schultz.
For Schultz to launch a successful independent bid, he’d have to win over a good chunk of centrist-minded members of both parties. And in an interview on 60 Minutes Sunday night he offered support for Democratic objectives, including aggressive climate change legislation and comprehensive immigration reform, while striking conservative notes on the national debt and opposition to more socialized health care.
But the initial reaction online was more mockery than applause. “For all this said, it’s unbelievably arrogant for Howard Schultz to think that ‘Howard Schultz, as an independent, on a platform of deficit reduction, for president’ is the answer to any question that anybody has ever asked about anything,” wrote Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of the political and polling website FiveThirtyEight.
And even more people pointed out that if Schultz truly wants to help the country, there are better things he could do.
“Literally just get up tomorrow morning and match Bill Gates contributions to vaccines and you'll do more for the world than this entire vanity project,” wrote @pourmecoffee.
“Maybe some affordable housing for Seattle, too,” added @joanmccarter.
“Have you seriously considered using your wealth for more productive things, like starting an influencer-friendly music festival in the Bahamas,” @actioncookbook joked, adding, “I feel like you could pull it off where others have failed, and you also wouldn't be ruining an election.”
With reporting by Scott Bixby