Friday, January 29, 2016

Michael Bloomberg and the 2016 election

I do not like Michael Bloomberg. I think his enthusiastic embrace of "stop-n-frisk" tactics in NYC was not only something that violated the Fourth Amendment but was also emblematic of his larger approach to life. Bloomberg seems to prefer that people live according to his rules and sees few if any issues to using government force to make sure that they do. He is quite dismissive and oft contemptuous of opposing views. While this is admirable when it comes to such public goods as clean drinking water and auto safety it's perhaps not so great when it comes to private decisions on how much sugar or fat a person should be ingesting. Perhaps irritated by the rise of Trump and shocked by the fact that at the time of this post Sanders is giving Clinton more of a fight than he was supposed to, Bloomberg has floated a trial balloon about running for President this year as an independent candidate. As Bloomberg is anywhere from four to ten times as wealthy as Trump, Bloomberg would not at all be pressed by the costs necessary to build a national campaign at this late date. I don't doubt, Republican or Democratic protests and shenanigans aside, that if Bloomberg really wanted to get on the ballot in all 50 states he would have the money and moxie to make that happen. The question though is that in a time when the Republican and Democratic parties have accepted and enforced ideological purity it's not clear from which party and in which state Bloomberg would take more votes.

Bloomberg is certainly acceptable to much of the Democratic base on the sexual politics (gay rights, feminism, abortion rights) which take up so much energy in today's political arena. Bloomberg is no socialist. He's a believer in what is called free trade. He likes immigration and wants more of it. He's to the right of people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on economic issues. As much as any one person can be, Bloomberg is the Wall Street Establishment. On economic and gun control issues, Bloomberg could well appeal to that well educated moderate Republican voter who in an earlier era was known as a Rockefeller Republican. The problem though is that that sort of voter is not that common outside of some pockets of the Northeast. Certainly not many conservatives in the South, West or Midwest will vote for someone who's best known for visceral hostility to gun rights. Bloomberg simply can't win 270 electoral votes. And I can't see too many Black voters picking Bloomberg over either Clinton or Sanders. If Bloomberg does run I don't see him winning a single state. The only impact he might have is to make a few Northeast states competitive for Republicans. And I would bet that he knows that. But if Clinton should lose in the upcoming Iowa and New Hampshire contests, Bloomberg might see himself as the last chance to prevent a choice between Sanders and Trump. And who knows, there just might be enough establishment Republicans out there who think that they can deal with Bloomberg instead of Trump. But it's really really difficult to imagine that there are millions of thirsty desperate voters out there, yearning for the chance to vote for Bloomberg. I don't see it. The 2016 election is going to be about a repudiation or continuation of President Obama's legacy. It's not going to be about bloodless management, which is what Bloomberg offers. Well he offers that along with stop-n-frisk for everyone. You need to offer a message. Trump's message is America's losing. Vote for me and make America great again. Sanders' message is the rich have screwed you over. Clinton's message is it's time for a woman to lead. Bloomberg's message would be what exactly? What is the passion to make someone vote for Bloomberg? Ultimately, I think any Bloomberg Presidential campaign would be rooted in pure vanity.
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