Bloomberg: an untenable campaign
By Conor Kelly
In recent years, the idea of noxious and corrupt billionaires buying influence and power in the political system has become a common trope within the Democratic party. Still, it remained unlikely that anyone would ever so perfectly embody such an archetype. That is, of course, until Michael Bloomberg announced his bid for the Presidency in 2019.
Bloomberg is a longstanding name in the world of philanthropy and business at large, but his name especially rings strong because of his three terms as Mayor of New York City. His time in office, while rocky at first in terms of approval ratings, eventually found its strength, and he rose to prominence as an advocate for education reform. However, none of those considerations will likely matter to Democrats in the recent primary and for good reason.
Under Bloomberg’s three-term mayorship, Stop and Frisk—a racially-motivated policy that adversely targeted black Americans—increased by almost six-fold, according to the New York City ACLU. It was under his administration that the New York Police surveilled Muslim communities, and actively continued the policy when it garnered support in the wake of 9/11, according to another report from the ACLU. To put it lightly, Bloomberg has a long history of racism that he won’t be able to shrug off so quickly, especially given the increasingly diverse Democratic Party.
At the core of his campaign is an old, but potent message that other Democrats lack if it is genuine. Bloomberg would have you and the rest of the electorate believe that he’s the self-made billionaire who can beat Donald Trump with practical policies. Whatever the truth of these claims, there is an important question to be asked here: does it matter? Bloomberg, the political figure, is antithetical to the Democratic party. He has been buying influence through his philanthropy, spending an estimated $2.3 billion across 102 cities throughout the nation as of 2018, according to a New York Times investigation.
This influence was particularly palpable when Emily’s List, a feminist organization, allowed Bloomberg to speak at their fundraising luncheon despite his public comments about the MeToo movement—comments that questioned the allegations made against disgraced commentator, Charlie Rose. Despite the reservations of some within the organizations, Bloomberg was permitted to speak and used the opportunity to publicly pledge to spend more on supporting female candidates in their elections.
“I will be putting more money into supporting women candidates this cycle than any individual ever has before,” he said.
This money, while not necessarily “buying” in the direct sense, is an undeniable shadow that weighs on the minds of those involved in politics across the nation. How can we, as Democrats, ask the American people to vote for us to change the system as it stands when Bloomberg is using that system to such an extent that it is almost a parody in and of itself? A New York Times report found he is buying the support of significant contributors online and spreading his influence under the guise of popular, grassroots appeal. According to the LA Times, social media outlets like Twitter have struggled to respond, with Twitter banning seventy accounts for violating its media manipulation policies. At the crux of Bloomberg’s campaign is his endless coffers and the manipulative influence that such wealth allows; this influence, especially in terms of the corruption within social media, calls into question the impact social media has on information in a democracy. Perhaps a look at our campaign finance laws is in order?
Whatever his positions may be, the methods by which Bloomberg seeks to pursue his goals and his haunting past are too much to ignore. If Democrats are serious about changing the system, then they’ll recognize that Bloomberg is unable to contribute.