Despite #DemocraticOutrage, the Time May be Right for a Viable #Independent Candidate.
Within hours of former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s announcement that he is considering a run for the 2020 U.S. Presidency, the Twittersphere ignited in a collective unison of Democratic outrage. Fears that a left-leaning moderate could pilfer enough Democratic votes to guarantee Trump’s 2020 re-election has Democrats steaming and threatening to boycott Schultz’s coffee empire.
Although fears of an Independent tipping votes toward another candidate are certainly grounded in fact — i.e. Ross Perot in 1992 who managed to garner nearly 19% of the total vote that likely would have otherwise gone to George H.W Bush — this time could be different.
According to a 2017 Gallup Research Poll 42% of registered voters are Independent. Although it’s hard to qualify exactly what it means to be an Independent, what’s most important about them right now is that there are more of them than Democrats (29%) and Republicans (27%), unlike in 1992 when Independent voters made up only 27% of the electorate as compared to 38% Democrat and 35% Republican.
What is also clear is that as the partisan divide widens the number of registered Independents grows, presumably out of frustration of a political discourse that accomplishes little and partisan bickering that leaves citizens feeling neither party is capable of leading or affecting any real change. And just as the rise of the Tea Party expelled moderate Republicans from their ranks, the Left’s embrace of Democratic Socialism threatens to expel moderate Democrats, leaving an increasing pool of centrists with no place to call home. It’s not unreasonable to think, under these circumstances, that a third-party candidate could make a formidable run.
The challenge, of course, would be messaging and motivation. How do you rally a community of voters whose politics hover on each side of the political spectrum?
In the absence of any coherent political plan, Trump’s strength among his base, aside from his charisma, relies on his ability to create villains. Be it Hillary Clinton, Obama, the media, immigrants or the FBI, Trump knows playing to a voter’s sense of disgust and inequity motivates them to turn out to the polls.
To the contrary, a more centrist and tempered candidate touting a platform of mutual respect, human decency, and bipartisan decision-making is far more difficult to generate enthusiasm. Chants of “Just Be Reasonable!” don’t quite have the impassioned appeal of “Build the Wall!” or “Lock her Up!”. Voters often reward swagger over sensibility.
Additionally, if a majority of voters are indeed yearning to elect a moderate, there’s little to no indication of that so far. In fact, a quick Twitter search of #ELECTAMODERATE showed literally one response from 2015.
Is Howard Schultz the right candidate to make a run? Who knows. Americans have already proven they’re inclined to hire a billionaire with no political experience as long as the candidate’s rhetoric matches their own. We’re also more than 600 days from the 2020 election and given the speed of today’s politics we may not remember the name Howard Schultz six months from now. However, in order for Schultz or any Independent to be competitive, the collective voice of reason must rise above the noise and right now the Never Trumpers have the bullhorn.