Liberals spook easily, a reasonable response to a political lifetime of limited success in elections and – notably – some defeat snatched from the jaws of victory experiences like 2016. I get it. The sky is always falling, everything will turn out badly somehow, and the worst will inevitably happen. Frankly that's not a bad set of expectations; at least it turns the successes into pleasant surprises.
But listen. Just try to trust me on this one, even though you won't and possibly can't trust me or anyone else who tells you this: Howard Schultz's candidacy is a joke. And not in the way Trump's candidacy was a joke that appealed really strongly to a demographic that actually exists. It's the kind of joke everyone will forget about rapidly and will get more embarrassing the longer it is drawn out.
If you don't want to read any further arguments, just remember this: a man with billions of dollars, one week into a heavily covered media rollout of his supposed presidential campaign, has fewer than 60,000 followers on Twitter and 30,000 on Facebook. And half of that is journalists. The other half is people making fun of him. In another context, that's 60,000 fewer followers than *I* have on Facebook. Think about that. And this guy claims that what he's proposing to do is a thing people are clamoring for. Social media follows are a very cheap and easy thing to buy, but also to grow organically. Post literally anything people find funny, interesting, cute, etc and follows will grow because it costs the user literally nothing. Oh, this seems interesting I guess (Click!) And he can't even do that.
There simply is no audience for this outside of campaign consultants (neatly divided into two camps: people who think the West Wing was real, and people who know Schultz is a moron but are happy to take his money) and the small portion of the electorate that actually has centrist politics (which, in reality rather than in imaginations, is not many). The Democratic primary field already offers an array of options for Ned Flanders types who just want everyone to get along but don't want any policy changes, with the exception of gun control, to the left of like, John Kasich. Bloomberg. Biden. Gillibrand, probably. Maybe Booker soon. Aside from calling themselves Democrats, what is the difference between these people and Schultz?
What Schultz is banking on is someone like Sanders winning the Democratic nomination – because if that doesn't happen, his "Oh my god, look how extreme and partisan both of the choices are!" message is dead on arrival. Even if that does happen (which is unlikely) he can't answer the obvious question: in a "Far right vs. far left" election theoretically crying out for some moderate Voice of Sanity independent, why would it be him? Why wouldn't established figures with name recognition and political experience (Bloomberg? Kasich?) fill that void? Why wouldn't some billionaire who actually has a personality and isn't some forgettable, boring, cliche-spouting guy who looks like your dentist run for it? If there's one thing this country is not short on, it's rich guys who seem to think they'd be great as elected officials. Some of them can even speak in a way that doesn't make everyone sleepy.
I can't tell if this guy has the energy to make until the Spring of 2020 – until he knows who the Democratic nominee is – but if anyone around him is being honest with him this will be over quickly and he'll go slinking back to the Aspen Ideas Festival and Davos where rooms full of people will nod politely at the kind of pabulum he's selling. He is reportedly paying his consultants obscene amounts of money, so unfortunately that guarantees that at least one group of people will continue to tell him this is a great idea.
We are likely to start seeing more of this in the future, as the rich get obscenely richer and they realize that while a presidential campaign is an expensive thing, it's the kind of expensive thing that a billionaire can easily buy. But of all the world's billionaires, I can't think of one less interesting and less likely to garner any support beyond the tepid praise of Chuck Todd and Jeff Flake. Not only is Schultz the answer to a question nobody is asking, he's not even a good answer.