Former Starbucks CEO and billionaire Howard Schultz announced yesterday that he’s seriously considering joining the 2020 presidential race as an “independent centrist,” whatever the fuck that means. In an interview, he told the New York Times that he doesn’t believe he could run as a Democrat since they are all socialists who believe in Medicare for All now (to paraphrase).
As a first step in his potential self-funded run, Schultz is off on a book tour. Today he made his first stop at the Union Square Barnes & Noble location, where he sat for an interview with CNN’s Andrew Sorkin. Right as the conversation began, some hero decided to make their opinion on his run known.
The heckler was apparently booed and then escorted from the premises.
Schultz’s announcement on Twitter yesterday was not particularly well received. His mentions were flooded with angry replies that far outpaced the number of positive comments and retweets. Before he was removed, the heckler made reference to this, telling Schultz to “go back to getting ratio’d on Twitter.”
Sorkin apparently drew applause when he asked a question tweeted by Washington Post reporter David Weigel about why the former head of a company that operates in many countries with universal healthcare doesn’t believe the system could work in the U.S.
As many noted after Schultz’s announcement, opposition to his campaign is one of the only things seemingly able to unite the left and center wings of the Democratic party. Centrists like Neera Tanden and former Hillary Clinton campaign manger Robby Mook have voiced opposition to his potential campaign alongside left-leaning Democrats like Weigel.
But Schultz’s first hires on his potential campaign reflect his centrism: Steve Schmidt, a former political strategist for the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain, and Bill Burton, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign and later served as his deputy press secretary.
Today, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement announcing that he’d decided to not run a similar campaign for president, asking Schultz to stay out of the race as well.
“The data was very clear and very consistent. Given the strong pull of partisanship and the realities of the electoral college system, there is no way an independent can win. That is truer today than ever before,” Bloomberg wrote. “In 2020, the great likelihood is that an independent would just split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President. That’s a risk I refused to run in 2016 and we can’t afford to run it now.”
But Schultz, despite the negative reception he’s received so far and the warnings of fellow billionaires, is charging ahead.
“I can’t think of anything that is a more quintessential expression of our democracy than providing the American people with a choice that doesn’t have to be binary between the Republican and the Democrat,” Schultz said in an interview with NPR. “Why should the American people not have the choice of someone who is saying, ‘I’m not embedded with either party’?”