Why CEOs Running For President In 2020 Are Doomed

Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz
Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz

When Sen. Kamala Harris, the California Democrat who jumped into the race for the White House last month, floated a “Medicare for all” plan that would dump private health insurance, one man’s response was blunt, and hardly what you’d expect from someone serious about becoming the Democrat’s pick to take on Donald Trump in 2020.

“You could never afford that. You’re talking about trillions of dollars,” the man said, adding, “To replace the entire private system where companies provide healthcare for their employees would bankrupt us for a very long time.”

Then, when media darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York in the House as a Democrat, floated an idea to plunk down a 70 percent marginal tax rate on income over $10 million, another voice, also hoping to take on Trump, piped up.

“Why should we punish it? What’s the American dream? The American dream is to create opportunity,” he told CNN. “The American dream is to rise above your standing in life. Now, we’re going to be providing punitive tax rates for people who have succeeded?”

What kind of crazy, naïve truth tellers say such things? Who are these renegade politicos, daring enough to take such rational, middle-of-the road stands? Well, they’re businessmen, of course—and not just any businessmen, but Michael Bloomberg and Howard Schultz, two of the most successful, entrepreneurial CEOs of the past 100 years.

If you haven’t heard, they’re both considering Presidential runs. We wish them luck—they’re gonna need it. A recent Gallup poll found Americans aged 18 to 29 (of both parties) are as positive about socialism (51 percent) as they are about capitalism (45 percent). That’s a 12-point decline in young adults’ positive views of capitalism in just the past two years—hardly the right primary climate for either of these guys.

Strike one: They have this problem, common among many successful CEOs, to call bullshit on things and confront the truth, even when it isn’t popular (see above). After years of dealing with hard realities on a day-to-day basis, they’re stuck with this horrible habit. That won’t play well on Facebook, that’s for sure.

Strike two: They’ve both built multi-billion dollar global businesses that employ thousands. How do enthusiastic political activists engage with such figures in 2019? “Go back to Davos,” yelled one heckler at a recent Schultz book signing. Sigh.

Strike three: They’re rich. Really, really rich. In our day and age, that’s an immediate disqualification. No matter how you made your fortune, it’s a sin to have one (unless you’re cool, like Steve Jobs, or on TV, like Kim Kardashian). That explains the Harris camp’s too-predictable response to Bloomberg. “Attacked by billionaires for fighting to make sure every American has healthcare,” tweeted a Harris spokeswoman. “What a shock.”

So here we go, into 2020. God help these guys. God help us all.

Read more: President Howard Schultz? Sonnenfeld Says Joe Biden Would Be A Problem

Dan Bigman is Editor and Chief Content Officer of Chief Executive Group, publishers of Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, ChiefExecutive.net, Boardmember.com and StrategicCFO360. Previously he was Managing Editor at Forbes and the founding business editor of NYTimes.com.