If it were happening in Russia or Ukraine, we could imagine the script the media would be reciting: “An oligarch with a media empire and deep connections to the leading party in the lower assembly is running for president. He is spending tens of millions of dollars of his own money to secure victory. He is silencing the media.”
The “oligarch” in question, of course, is Michael Bloomberg, the $58 billion man. Mr. Bloomberg, the feisty suburban Boston native, built an eponymous information and news empire into a world-beating business (and walked away with tens of billions of dollars in the process). He then served three relatively successful terms as mayor of New York City first as a Republican then as an independent. Gotham mayor, of course, is nobody’s idea of an easy job and his record was largely admirable: Crime fell under his watch and New York’s finances were stable.
And now, joining some 587 others, Mr. Bloomberg is running for president as a Democrat. He has already splashed out, spending more than $30 million on initial television advertising. (Though to be fair, dropping $30 million is equivalent to grabbing a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts for us mere mortals.)
Mr. Bloomberg has money to burn, and he’ll need it if he hopes to make an impact. One would be hard pressed to imagine a politician less suited to the current moment. In a populist age, he is proudly elitist. At a moment when voters feel their politicians are not attuned to their democratic concerns, he is a technocrat. At a moment when voters have rebelled against the Nanny State, his record reflects misbegotten campaigns like banning large-size sodas (really) in New York.
Political scientists have noted that there is a huge ideological position in American politics that remains largely unexploited: voters who are culturally conservative and economically statist. (Europe has many of these parties, from Poland to France to Italy, and they’re successful.) We’re talking about voters who love guns, God and Social Security, but abhor untramelled immigration and abortion until birth. Mr. Bloomberg represents the exact opposite of what this underserved demographic demands. He is pro-immigration and anti-gun. He is pro-abortion but would certainly be open to Social Security cuts. His is an ideology of, for and by the plutocrats.
So, Mr. Bloomberg is unlikely to thrive in the Democratic primaries — especially as leftist candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will delight in attacking his wealth. But that doesn’t mean his run won’t do damage.
Consider its impact on the news. For instance, Bloomberg News is one of the most well-funded news organizations in the world. It does important muckracking work, often about Democratic politicians. But not anymore.
“We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike [Bloomberg] (and his family and foundation) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries. We cannot treat Mike’s democratic competitors differently from him,” Bloomberg news Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait said in a memo to his staff following Mr. Bloomberg’s announcement. So not only will Bloomberg News not cover Mr. Bloomberg himself, but a formidable news organization will lay off his rivals for the Democratic nomination as well. That’s very bad news for an informed populace.
Mr. Bloomberg has begun with his presidential campaign with several feints to the left, including expressing regret for his embrace of “Stop and Frisk,” the aggressive police technique that helped New York achieve its world-historical crime declines. (Sen. Joe Biden has, similarly, apologized for one of the few good things he did in his multi-decade Senate career: co-sponsor a crime bill that similarly cut crime markedly.)
But the fact remains that there is little to no market for a low-charisma, billioniare politician who is pro-illegal immigration, anti-gun and pro-abortion up until nine months. One would think that Mike Bloomberg, certainly a keen businessman, would have a sharper understanding of what the market demands. Because one thing is for certain: It doesn’t demand him.