The Bloomberg Dilemma
Michael Bloomberg’s entry into the Democratic presidential race complicates my political life, which 1) is no big deal, and 2) I actually appreciate!
I think billionaires shouldn’t exist, much less hold political power. Their obscene wealth estranges them from the everyday tasks, concerns, frustrations, and anxieties that confront the rest of us; when do you think a billionaire last cleaned a bathroom? They face little penalty for creating their own universes and, like black holes, warping societal space-time toward themselves. Bloomberg is no exception. He’s arrogant and imperious and reacts poorly to criticism.
That said . . .
Not all billionaires are alike. Some, perhaps most, are odious. But others have more sense of social obligation, Bloomberg among them. He served as mayor of New York — among the most thankless jobs in the country — for twelve years. He made some huge mistakes, but did well enough overall to earn re-election twice. He’s also put his wealth behind gun control and public health initiatives; when the tobacco industry placed a proposition on the San Francisco ballot this year to repeal restrictions on the sale of vaping products, Bloomberg poured a fortune into its defeat — and it went down.
Plus Bloomberg is really smart. I infer this from his campaign and its execution. Instead of barging into the first four state contests (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina) late in the process, he decided to bypass them and focus on so-called Super Tuesday, March 3, when 1,345 pledged convention delegates (including California’s 416) will be up for grabs — 35% of the total, and way more than the 155 pledged delegates available in the first four states.
I receive at least one email a day from Bernie Sanders (I sent him a few bucks in 2016) and have gotten two fundraising letters from Elizabeth Warren and one from Joe Biden. Since declaring his candidacy, Bloomberg has sent at least one post per day to my Facebook feed. He’s way ahead of the pack just by using social media — and his people also seem to know climate change is my first priority. I’ve seen his introductory television ad twice, versus none from his rivals, including hometown favorite Kamala Harris. The TV ad highlights at least three winning Democratic issues (climate change, gun control, and addition of a Medicare-for-all option to the present health care system) and includes a reminder that he’s running for the all-important reason of beating Trump.
You may say I’m getting all these pitches because Bloomberg has so much money. You’re right! But so do several other candidates who also have the option to put their money where the delegates are. None have. Instead they’ve focused on the small, unrepresentative early states in hopes of gaining media momentum.
Money will be a crucial factor in the general election, because Trump has a ton of it. I’m convinced Bloomberg will write himself checks for as much as he needs. I’m also convinced he’s eager to confront Trump. I loved his speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention. He’s a mediocre speaker, but he doesn’t pander to his audience, and he drips with genuine contempt for Trump. If you don’t have time for the whole spiel, start at the 5:00 mark and stick around a minute for his ultimate putdown, which starts “I’m a New Yorker.”
When I first posted about the 2020 Democratic field, I expressed desire for a candidate who will both campaign and govern effectively. I think Bloomberg can do both. But he’s an imperious billionaire, and I don’t think he’ll address the second most pressing issue the world faces, economic inequality; from my observation, he hastened New York City’s transformation into a playground for the rich. So for now my California primary choices remain Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Warren, and Yang.
But if Bloomberg gets the nomination, he’ll get my vote.