Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 11, 2019
After years of public lies, insults, bad policy and abuse of office by Donald Trump, you’d think that news that Mike Bloomberg might enter the presidential race might bring a smile to the face.
Instead, I could feel my eyes rolling.
It felt really disturbing that Bloomberg thinks he can walk in mid-way through this campaign, a newly declared Democrat, and simply announce that he is ready to take over for the lesser beings who have been walking the walk in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, just because he walks in with a heavy personal billionaire purse.
No qualifying for debates like the 20-plus other candidates, no facing debate questions, no corn-dog Iowa fairs, no big handshake tours of New Hampshire, no appearances with hotel workers in Nevada. Nothing.
Just as a grating sound on Democratic politics, Bloomberg annoys those looking for substantial change in government, lacks support among unions and black voters, and is another old white, rich guy from New York City.
And then, rather than actually announce, Bloomberg is playing with us, as if we are so many chess pieces. Do it or don’t, at this point, Mr. Mayor, but respect us enough that you don’t just roll a grenade into the room and then scurry away.
Let’s be clear. Bloomberg has many desirable qualities, starting with the fact that he relies on actual fact and information in his decision-making, that he is as close to an independent as we seem to get in this country, that he has some passion for educating students, for addressing disruptive climate change and wants fewer guns out there.
Bloomberg is also the guy who basically stole a third term as mayor by having the New York City Charter rewritten, supported stop-and-frisk approaches to policing, got rid of big soda drinks and leaned over backwards to help real estate developers in the city without regard to affordable housing concerns.
He is a manager and a builder, and, in comparison to Trump, an actual successful billionaire who has paid his bills and left most people in his orbit whole. He has built a worldwide business, has pursued civic responsibility and has paid actual taxes. He learned Spanish to better reach out to immigrant communities, and basically made agencies run a bit better. He has hardly showed himself the friend to working classes of people.
Of course, while there are sizeable differences, looking from Kansas or Oklahoma, so has Bill de Blasio, whose New York mayoralty experience went absolutely nowhere as a presidential contender.
It is certainly possible for Bloomberg to have entered this race late as a third-party independent candidate. But our history in recent decades is that third parties split the opposition to incumbents, and, in this case, with a solid base in place for Trump, would probably guarantee Trump’s reelection.
But then, why the cat-and-mouse. If Bloomberg wants to influence the current candidates to alter their approaches, why not just talk with them?
Bloomberg’s non-announcement is first and foremost, a vote of non-confidence in Joe Biden as a candidate. As the television pundits would say, they basically run in the same election “lane,” for moderates. Bloomberg’s arrival would be a challenge first to the Biden campaign for the same vote.
What else does Bloomberg see out there that these candidates do not.
Bloomberg’s non-announcement is also a slap at Pete Buttigieg, a New York slap-down of South Bend, Indiana, as less than consequential government experience, as if the rest of us couldn’t distinguish one city from the next. Actually Mayor Pete’s appeal has little to do with South Bend, and everything to do with his even countenance, his intelligent responses to all kinds of questions, to generational change and to a broadening of diversity.
The substantive foe for Bloomberg is the Elizabeth Warren-Bernie Sanders wing of Democrats, even more so than either individual candidate, I would think. Setting aside the self-interest of a billionaire resistant to more proposed taxes on billionaires, Bloomberg, like Trump, sees more tax as a disincentive to constant growth in the U.S. economy by throttling the entrepreneurial spirit that thrives on investment.
Somehow, Bloomberg is missing something here. What at least 60 percent of the country wants is some serious change, not just from Trump, but from a combination of lessening the income gap between rich and poor, and a return of hope that includes access to health care, housing and education.
It’s one thing for Bloomberg to smugly critique the current set of too many Democratic candidates, and another for him to put himself out there with a slate of proposals and the desire to sell them to American voters.
It would be a nice gesture for him to repay the half-billion dollars already spent by his fellow candidates.
Suddenly announcing your availability while skipping over Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina seems unduly elitist. But then, this is the guy who had the charter rewritten, Trump-like, to take a third term.