Running for President? OK, Bloomberg

Connor Zimmerman, Editor-in-chief

When Donald Trump announced his first presidential run in June 2015, voters and the media raised concerns over how his business interests, and his status as a billionaire would influence the election. However, as Trump commences his reelection campaign, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s entry into the Democratic primary may actually be a personal vanity project of the sort that so many worried Trump was pursuing.

Bloomberg, who now brands himself on his website as the more down-to-earth Mike Bloomberg, has a net worth estimated at $58 billion. Bloomberg has historically spent large amounts of money ($112 million in 2018) on Democratic political campaigns and causes, with fairly good success; he spent $2.5 million on pro gun-control candidates during Virginia’s elections earlier this year helping the Democrats take full control of the state government.

Now, as we progress deeper into the 2020 race, his expenditures make it clear: Michael Bloomberg now believes that only he, and his much larger fortune, can beat President Donald Trump. 

“I know how to win,” said Bloomberg at his inaugural campaign event in Norfolk, Virginia, “because I’ve done it time and time again.”

Bloomberg’s entry into a field of 14 other Democratic candidates is late enough already, and his likely exclusion from the Democratic primary debates would certainly prevent his campaign from gaining any traction. The party requires any candidate have 200,000 individual donors in order to participate in the debates. This late in the primary season, Bloomberg’s self financed campaign could be hard pressed to find donors, even if he paid them.

Maybe missing the debates would be best for Bloomberg. His Democratic rivals, chiefly Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have been very critical of billionaires. Bloomberg’s fortune dwarfs even that of billionaire rival Tom Steyer, and he would definitely become the target for his opponents’ anti-billionaire rhetoric.

In lieu of seeing him in the debates, voters can check out Bloomberg’s policy positions on his campaign website, which he launched along with his official announcement on November 24th. At his first stop in Norfolk, the following day, Bloomberg mentioned some policies around gun violence, climate change, education and smoking. While these are excellent causes to focus on for a billionaire philanthropist, Bloomberg’s record on actually tackling issues while in office is checkered.

In over a decade as mayor of NYC, Bloomberg is best remembered for his support of the controversial “stop and frisk” policy, which gave NYPD officers permission to stop, question, and even search civilians in the street based solely on “reasonable suspicion.” The program was intended to get illegal guns off the streets of NYC, and on average, 88% of those who were stopped, who were mostly young African American and Latino men, had committed no crime. Even after stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional in 2013, Bloomberg continued to voice his support for the program until very recently- November 17th, to be exact.

Authoritarian, “nanny state” policies like “stop and frisk” are an administrative staple for Bloomberg, and they are not limited to issues like guns. Bloomberg is also infamous for his proposed 2013 “soda ban,” which aimed to restrict the sale of large drinks in movie theaters and restaurants, and was shot down by numerous New York courts. More recently, Bloomberg has called for bans on flavored vaping products, and in spite of past personal use of marijuana, he supports continuing its federal prohibition, describing it as “another addictive narcotic.”

Bloomberg’s wealth has allowed him to influence elections and policy across the country, but now for him, that is not enough. Michael Bloomberg’s cavalier entrance into the presidential race is an ultimate declaration of his arrogance. He brands himself as a progressive, but progress to him means more layers of bureaucratic bubble wrap around voters. Very few voters would agree with Bloomberg’s sort of restrictions, but he believes that because he holds the money that influences the election, he knows better than an electorate that he views as vulnerable, and too stupid to look after themselves. I share little common ground with Democratic frontrunner Elizabeth Warren, but I can certainly agree with her distaste for this candidate. 

“Michael Bloomberg is making a bet about democracy in 2020: He doesn’t need people, he only needs bags and bags of money,” said Warren, at a community meeting in Ankeny, Iowa, following Bloomberg’s candidacy announcement, “I think Michael Bloomberg is wrong and that’s what we need to prove in this election.”