Back at the end of January the billionaire former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, announced that he was “Seriously thinking of running for president” in an interview with 60 Minutes.
Schultz explained that if he were to run it would be as a centrist candidate affiliated with neither political party. He attributed this to what he sees as “extremism” on both sides. The announcement was met with much scrutiny. Many were concerned that his candidacy would act as a spoiler, which would siphon votes from the Democrats and help to re-elect Donald Trump. Schultz responded to both the criticism and the spoiler concerns in a statement he wrote on Medium.
All of this leads to one important question: Where the hell does this guy get off?
What on gods green earth makes this guy think that he is in any way qualified to be president? Why does he get to write pieces in Medium calling out his critics (especially since his response to the spoiler concerns was essentially “I promise not to”)? Why does CNN give him a town hall? Why does the media just accept him as a legitimate possibility?
The answer to all of the above is because he’s rich. That is the one and only reason that this candidate is treated with any legitimacy. Howard Schultz has zero political experience. No senate experience, no congressional experience, no mayoral experience, no local government experience, not even experience as an intern on a campaign. Howard Schultz gets all of this media attention, and all of this interest in his narcissistic contemplation of running for president, on the basis of his bank account alone.
He is far from the only American billionaire to consider running. The (alleged) billionaire president he’s so concerned about defeating is also wholly unqualified for office. 2016 was not the first time Trump talked about running for office either. He flirted with the idea for media attention many times before and was granted it every time. There were even horrifying rumors that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was considering a bid for the White house.
The legitimacy that these unqualified billionaire candidates get seems to originate from an unhealthy reverence of wealth. There is an underlying assumption in the reporting of these potential candidates that having more money inherently means that you have more value as a person. That you’re smarter, that your voice is more important, that you’re more qualified to decide what’s best to everyone. Essentially it’s the absurd logical extension of classism.
Now there may be people who object to this assessment, and instead believe that these billionaires have proven themselves in some way. A popular notion amongst Trump supporters during the 2016 election was that Trump had proven himself smart and capable by building a business empire and that these skills would be transferable in his role as president. Now Trump is a very bad example to back up this idea seeing that he inherited millions and still failed hard a hell of a lot of times. And let’s not forget that many billionaires had a pretty significant helping hand by being born into wealth. But even in the case of people who have genuinely been successful in business and who came from “humble beginnings” as media outlets love to say of Schultz, I’m not convinced that the skills required for success in business are transferable to holding the highest office in the land.
The primary goal of any business is to make money. That is the basis on which every single decision is made. Make no mistake a true businessman will sacrifice any other goal for the sake of profit. And this is what billionaires are good at. The goal of the presidency is not the same. The goal of any president should be to make life better for the people they govern. This defiantly isn’t always the outcome, and some politicians have very warped ideas what “better” would entail and very narrow ideas of who “the people” they govern are. Frankly, most of the things that would improve the lives of the American people require spending a hell of a lot of money (sorry Republicans). A presidency that is committed to reducing costs at the expense of all else would be a useless disaster (sorry Republicans).
Even the more generic skills that one would assume comes with business success are in no way exclusive to billionaires. Intelligence? Scientists are intelligent. Leadership? Sports captains have leadership skills. Organization? PA’s are probably the most organized people on the planet. The only thing that makes the idea of a PA any more ridiculous than a billionaire running is that in America, wealth is treated as a qualification in and of itself.