I cannot say I’ve hung on every word of ex-Starbucks CEO (and de facto founder) Howard Schultz’s 48+ hour pre-campaign. But I’ve seen most of the public statements. What’s most notable is that the main theme of his campaign so far is hostility to Democrats. And as he gets criticized by Trump critics that pattern appears to be intensifying.
Schultz’s platform has been pretty vague so far. But to the extent he’s noted any specifics he’s attacked Medicare-for-all and higher marginal tax rates for the extremely wealthy. He’s also called for cuts to Social Security and Medicare and embraced fiscal austerity in general.
When asked last night whether there was any chance he would run in the Democratic primaries or support the Democrats he said nothing could change his mind because he opposed a 70% income tax rate.
He says there is nothing Democrats could do to change his mind and run in their primary. Specifically cites not wanting a 70 percent income tax
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) January 29, 2019
Now, as I’ve stated before, I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has done a huge service by busting open the debate about marginal tax rates and getting people to talk about dramatically higher rates for the extremely wealthy. But Schultz presented this as a the consensus Democratic party position and that’s demonstrably not the case, for better or worse. (Here’s an account of the exchange from the Post which provides a bit more nuance. But it’s the same difference, I think.)
Basically, Schultz’s whole campaign so far is based on attacking Democratic positions and caricaturing the Democratic party. As far as I can tell, the only position he’s staked out on the other side of the equation is that he’s opposed to building a wall.
This does not seem accidental. People don’t need a lot of explanations for why they should oppose Trump. If you currently support Trump, Howard Schultz is not going to dislodge your support. But there is a non-trivial portion of the electorate that does not like Trump but still doesn’t like progressive economic policy. Schultz is trying to position himself as a safe harbor for those voters. So attacking Trump or his tax cuts or family separations or corruption or all the rest is irrelevant and possibly not helpful.
I should add that I don’t think there’s a lot of room currently for a third party candidate, especially one with generally unpopular positions. So I’m not losing a lot of sleep over the possibility of his running. But given the danger represented by Donald Trump and the fact that Schultz can only help Trump get reelected, we should be clear at the outset that his whole campaign appears to be based on anti-Democrats.