A new 2020 candidate emerges: The ... chairman of Starbucks?

Man, and I thought the GOP clown car was full in 2016. This brings the total number of Democrats running in 2020 to, I believe, an even hundred.

At least now we know what that barista wokeness reeducation program was about.

[Howard] Schultz’s decision to retire, a plan he said he privately outlined to the board a year ago, will most likely stoke speculation that he is considering a run for president in 2020. He is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for the Democratic Party and has become increasingly vocal on political issues, including criticizing President Trump last year as “a president that is creating episodic chaos every day.”…

“I want to be truthful with you without creating more speculative headlines,” he told The New York Times. “For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country — the growing division at home and our standing in the world…

Asked directly if he was considering running for president, he said, “I intend to think about a range of options, and that could include public service. But I’m a long way from making any decisions about the future.”

If this dude somehow ends up with the Democratic nomination, roughly 90 percent of the 2020 campaign will be about the political correctness of Starbucks’s Christmas cups and whether people who wander in off the street looking to take a dump in a store’s bathroom should be required to buy merchandise or not.

The potential appeal of a Schultz candidacy leaves me dumbfounded. I realize he’s one of America’s most ostentatiously “socially conscious” CEOs and has been for years, long before the recent “racial retraining” episode. I realize he’s had political ambitions for awhile, even being a shortlister for Secretary of Labor in President Hillary’s administration. I also realize that, in theory, private-sector executives are newly viable as presidential material in the age of Trump. What I don’t realize:

1. Why would a party that’s moving left turn nominate a corporate titan? The Berniebros who were so disgusted with Hillary two years ago are suddenly going to be soothed by nominating … a billionaire businessman? Woke or not, that seems far-fetched.

2. If they’re going to nominate a billionaire businessman, why would it be Schultz instead of one of the umpteen other Democratic billionaires who are in the mix? Robert Iger’s name has been kicked around. Mark Cuban isn’t a doctrinaire Democrat but he’s obviously not going to run as a Republican if he runs. Most famously, Tom Steyer is every bit as progressive as Schultz *and* has spent many months and many millions trying to harness left-wing support for impeaching Trump in hopes of turning it into left-wing support for electing Tom Steyer president. I understand the case for preferring Schultz to Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. (Or at least I could if today’s Democratic coalition was the same as the one that elected Bill Clinton.) What’s the case for preferring Schultz to Steyer?

The idea that business success was a critical factor in Trump’s victory in 2016 is both true and overstated. It’s true that it helped him a bunch: American voters look at personal wealth and reason that anyone with the brains and know-how to become a huge financial success will also know how to make the country a huge economic success. Schultz’s Starbucks empire gives him a baseline of electoral credibility in that sense, and of course he’s got cash to burn when it comes to funding his campaign. But one thing Schultz isn’t is a celebrity, and celebrity was vastly more important to Trump’s electoral reach two years ago than his business expertise was. That’s why he’s forever being compared to people like Oprah more so than people like Schultz or Steyer. His genius isn’t real estate, it’s image. He’s famous for playing a ruthless executive on TV, for endlessly touting his supposedly vast wealth, and for working the media in ways few people have ever had the cunning or nerve to do.

As a candidate he was an unusual combo of mega-celebrity and real-world business success sufficient to convince voters that there was real management acumen behind all the glamour. None of the CEO wannabe presidents have anything like that. The closest is Cuban, who’s also a reality TV star, but Cuban’s a man without a constituency. That was the other ingredient to Trumpmania: He ran as an unabashed populist, against political correctness and the “elites” and all the other trappings of his class. He had a gimmick, as all good salesmen have. What’s Schultz’s gimmick? What’s Cuban’s? Steyer at least has the impeachment thing.