Former Obama aide joins Howard Schultz's team. Democrats aren't happy.

CNN/ Newswire | 1/29/2019, 7:40 a.m.
Bill Burton, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, defended his decision to join Howard Schultz's team as the former ...
Bill Burton, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, is joining Howard Schultz's team as the former Starbucks CEO considers an independent presidential bid in 2020, sources familiar with the plans tell CNN. (FILE PHOTO)

He disputed the suggestion that he is helping Schultz simply to make money, saying: "This is a campaign. We're not doing this as volunteers."

After Schultz announced on "60 Minutes" on Sunday that he was "seriously considering" running for president as a "centrist independent" in 2020, Democrats from across the political spectrum reacted with a near universal negativity.

News of Schultz's 2020 aspiration came at the outset of a book tour for "From the Ground Up," the coffee magnate's memoir. But at his first book tour event on Monday, the animosity some have towards a Schultz run was readily apparent.

"Don't help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire ahole," yelled a protester at the start of the event at a Barnes & Noble in New York City. "Go back to getting ratioe'd on Twitter. Go back to Davos with the billionaire elites who think they know how to run the world. That's not what democracy is."

Burton, who was at the event and saw the heckler, said Schultz "took it in stride."

The United States has a long history of independent candidates running for president, but few have ever come close to winning, especially in recent years as Democrats and Republicans have dominated the two-party system. Ross Perot ran as an independent in 1992, winning close to 20 million votes but no votes in the Electoral College.

Their biggest impact is the sense that third party candidates play the role of spoiler. Some Republicans believe Perot cost former President George H.W. Bush the presidency in 1992 by making President Bill Clinton's path to the White House easier. On the other side of the aisle, some Democrats believe Ralph Nader, who ran as an independent in 2000, cost Al Gore the presidency because his 97,488 votes in Florida helped President George W. Bush beat the former vice president in the decisive state by 537 votes.

Burton himself has mused about the damage a third-party candidate can have on the Democratic nominee.

In an August 2016 op-ed in The Sacramento Bee, Burton urged voters to be wary of third-party candidates because "a Trump presidency would mean the dismantling of basically every important progressive achievement over the last century, and progressives need to keep that in mind."

"If Stein or Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson eat into Clinton's support even a little, that could matter in a close election," he wrote. "And in the same way I would bet that Ralph Nader -- or at least many of his supporters -- wishes that he didn't help to make George W. Bush our 43rd commander in chief, I suppose Stein supporters would not want to be in the position of explaining to their kids how they helped make Trump president."