SEATTLE -- On Jan. 27, Howard Schultz took the first tentative steps toward running for president of the United States in 2020. Starbucks' former top executive announced his presidential ambitions in a series of tweets and a “60 Minutes” interview. In a surprising turn, Schultz revealed that he would run as a centrist independent.
“Over 40% of the electorate is either a registered independent or affiliates as an independent, because the American people are exhausted, their trust has been broken and they are looking for a better choice,” Schultz told the CBS news show.
As a “lifelong Democrat,” Schultz’s defined his legacy as CEO with progressive policies such as paid family leave and a pledge to hire 10,000 refugees in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. “We have been, for 200-plus years, a country of immigrants,” he said in the interview. “For 11 million people here unauthorized, there should be a fair and equitable way for them to get in line, pay the taxes, pay a fee and become citizens of the United States.”
The businessman also outlined several other policy leanings during the brief interview:
- Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord was a “tremendous mistake.”
- Quality healthcare is a right for all Americans; however, the country cannot afford the Democrats’ proposal of free healthcare for all.
- Instead of giving a “free ride to business” with the 2018 tax cut, he would have favored a more modest policy and have addressed the issue for “people who need tax relief the most.”
The 65-year-old Schultz said his experience running the $6.3 billion company has prepared him for the role of Commander in Chief. He helped grow the company to about 29,865 stores in 78 markets.
“I have a long history of recognizing I am not the smartest person in the room,” he said. “In order to make great decisions about complex problems, I have to recruit and attract people who are smarter than me, more experienced, more skilled, and we’ve got to create an understanding that we need a creative debate in the room to make these kinds of decisions. “
Trump, on the other hand, does not agree. “Howard Schultz doesn’t have the ‘guts’ to run for President!” he tweeted. “Watched him on @60Minutes last night and I agree with him that he is not the ‘smartest person.’ Besides, America already has that! I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!”
Some Democrats also voiced their concern that Schultz’s independent run would split the Democratic vote. “I have a concern that if he did run, that essentially it would provide Donald Trump with his best hope of getting re-elected,” Julian Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, told CNN.
In June, Schultz stepped down as executive chairman of Starbucks and assumed an honorary title of chairman emeritus. He ran the company from 1987 to 2000 and returned in 2008 to steer the company back to its origins. In 2017, Schultz handed off his CEO title to Kevin Johnson.
In the past, Starbucks has faced criticism for its labor practices, and last year faced outrage after two African-American men were accused of trespassing in a Philadelphia store. The Seattle-based company responded by closing all its 8,000 company-owned units for racial-bias education.
This isn’t the billionaire’s first foray into national politics. In the 2016 presidential election, Schultz campaigned for Hillary Clinton and was on the Democratic candidate’s list of potential labor secretary appointees, according to a report from Axios.