I want to talk about the arrogance of Michael Bloomberg for a moment, but to make my point I need to talk about the big themes that have driven the left over the last 12 years. Before the election of Donald Trump, the left was defined by the #Occupy and #BlackLivesMatter movements. After Trump’s election, the focus shifted to #TrumpRussia and #MeToo, but the prior concerns did not go away. The left has been criticized for focusing too much on identity politics and not enough on bread-and-butter issues. Likewise, they’re being accused of obsessing about Trump and the integrity of the last election and not putting enough emphasis on the things that concern people in their day-to-day lives. The truth is that there has always been a mix.
Irrespective of what Democratic leaders choose to highlight in any given week, the left is split between those who are focused most on economic and global issues like climate change, corporatism, trade and income inequality, and those who are focused most on civil rights and more fairness for women, minorities, and people in the LGBTQ community.
Bloomberg has a good record on two major issues that are of major concern to the left: gun violence and climate change. As for the rest, he’s about the worst fit for the left that can be imagined. On the economic front, he sees Social Security as a Ponzi scheme and thinks a wealth tax would be unconstitutional. On the cultural front, the stop and frisk policy he championed as the mayor of New York was exactly the kind of thing that #BlackLivesMatter rails against, and his record with women makes him a prime target of the #MeToo movement.
It’s hard to exaggerate what an affront it is to ask women who are sickened by Trump to support Bloomberg, or to the ask the same of folks who have been fighting to end police brutality against minority communities. To see how offensive Bloomberg is to the economic populists, just look at the visceral reaction to him we saw from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the Nevada and South Carolina debates.
Yet, Bloomberg somehow thinks he’s a good fit for this party and this time. Any objective observer would disabuse him of that notion, but he believes he can just overcome dissent with money. I don’t know what offends me the most, the idea that his ambition should cancel out the values of the Democratic Party or the idea that people are so suggestible that paid advertising can cause them to abandon their principles.
Bloomberg has always treated party affiliation (whether Republican, Democratic, or independent) as a matter of strategy rather than principle. Now he appears to believe that he’s the only person who can beat Trump and that he can simply spend the other candidates out of contention and Trump out of office.
Virtually everything about his campaign is offensive, including that it’s even legal for him to use so much of his fortune to swamp the armies of small donors who have ponied up for other candidates. He’s succeeded in raising the cost of advertising and staff for his opponents who, as a result, have less of an opportunity to build their organizations or get their messages out.
It might have worked for Bloomberg if he didn’t have such a public record of being terrible on the things that matter to the left, but it was the height of arrogance for him to think that none of that would matter.