He's not exactly presidential timber — he sold coffee for a living.
But he did it really well, and he rose from the projects in Brooklyn — his family's first to go to college — to become a multi-billionaire. And Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, has now got the Democrats looking over their shoulders as he flirts with an independent run for the White House in 2020.
Schultz has poured money into the Democratic Party since the 1990s, first backing Bill Clinton then Barack Obama and Hillary. He has described himself as a lifelong Democrat — but not anymore.
"I'm not a Democrat," Schultz said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday. "I don't affiliate myself with the Democrat Party — who is so far left, who basically wants the government to take over health care, which we cannot afford, the government to give free college to everybody, and the government to give everyone a job, which basically is $40 trillion on the balance sheet of $21.5 trillion. We can't afford it."
Schultz's shocking common sense (and any common sense from a politician nowadays really is shocking) has jolted the Democratic Party, which is moving left at the speed of light.
Just take a look at what Sen. Kamala Harris of California is proposing after she announced she's running in 2020. Harris is pushing free college tuition for everyone ($50 billion to $75 billion a year) and "Medicare for All" (which comes with a whopping $32 trillion price tag over 10 years).
Harris wants to "eliminate" private health insurance altogether, giving full control to the government, and backs Democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s "Green New Deal" ($49 trillion over 10 years), which would do away with natural gas and coal over 10 years and ban gasoline-powered vehicles.
And Harris wants to simply give money away (your taxpayer money, by the way). Last October, as she geared up for her White House run, she announced a plan by which families making less than $100,000 a year could receive up to $500 a month, or $6,000 a year, and individuals making less than $50,000 could get $250 a month (estimated cost: $500 billion a year).
Then there's Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey Democrat, who wants to establish “opportunity accounts” to give lower-income children up to $50,000 to use for a down payment on a house or college tuition. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who is running in 2020, backs a “guaranteed jobs programs” run by the federal government. And Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has also called for a top tax rate of 70%, which has drawn some support from others in the party, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
The New York Post wrote a great piece on Wednesday headlined: "Howard Schultz is just too sane for today’s Democrats."
The Democrats are in a funny position. They all assume that 2020 is the year to run as a Democrat, believing Trump to be doomed. Their triumphalism may be premature, but they aren’t without reason for hope. They believe that 2020 is theirs because they think the Republican Party has gone mad, an opportunity that Democrats have decided to make the most of by ... going just as bonkers themselves. ...
All the Democrats really need to do in the short term is provide a sober, sensible and neighborly alternative to that — a politics of genuine republican collaboration rather Kulturkampf. Lucky for Republicans, Democrats don’t seem much interested in republican collaboration.
So it's just that simple: Schultz has come along in a day when Democrats are looking more like a politburo and the current occupant of the White House is, to put it kindly, kind of a nutball. Schultz's tactic going forward is equally simple: Just sound like the grown-up in the room and say common-sense things, like this: “It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left,” Mr. Schultz told CNBC last June as he mulled a White House run. “I ask myself, ‘How are we going to pay for all these things?’ in terms of things like single-payer or people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job. I don’t think that’s realistic.”
Of course it's not. And the terrified Democrats know it.