National media were all abuzz this past week. Michael Bloomberg, who served as Mayor of New York City from 2001-13, appeared ready to launch his candidacy for President in a few states where filing deadlines are about to expire. Is he a man Spirited Reasoners could support to defeat Donald Trump?
A bit of background is required before that question can be addressed.
In addition to holding public office, Mr. Bloomberg also happens to be among the world’s wealthiest individuals, with a net worth exceeding $57 billion. He has supported progressive social causes for most of his adult life while remaining a fiscal conservative. Although he has backed Democrats, he switched to the Republican party to win one of his mayoral elections, then switched to independent status in another. Now he is back to supporting Democratic causes once again. Most political pundits view Bloomberg’s potential candidacy as a threat primarily to Joe Biden, whose policy positions are similar.
Now, let’s answer the question. Before Spirited Reasoners could support Michael Bloomberg, we would need to overcome the following serious concerns:
- Mr. Bloomberg has waited a long time, skipping several debates along the way. Meanwhile, the other candidates have looked the public in the eye, answering difficult questions that he has (so far) been able to avoid. It seems a bit unfair that someone can join the fray whenever he feels like it just because he has the money to do so.
- If, as the media seem to believe, the Democratic Party should select him because his wealth is greater than Donald Trump’s (thus taking away one of Trump’s principal arguments—that he’s the best “CEO” of America Incorporated), then the Democratic Party could rightfully be accused of surrendering one of its core principles: that the worth of an individual cannot and should not be determined by the dollar magnitude of one’s wealth.
- Even if Joe Biden held the temporary position of frontrunner a few weeks back, he never held a position of dominance among Democratic candidates. To do that, he would have needed to demonstrate poll numbers in excess of 50% of likely primary voters. The point here is that even if Bloomberg were to capture 100% of Biden’s vote, he could still find himself in third or fourth place, behind Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg, none of whom will be going away any time soon. Should Democrats really assume Mr. Bloomberg is such an obvious winner?
None of which means that a Bloomberg candidacy should be dismissed lightly. If, in fact, he can win the number of delegates necessary to gain the Democratic nomination, then Spirited Reasoners might find him to be an attractive alternative to the other billionaire.
But let’s hope the following scenario does not play out: Mr. Bloomberg fights hard, fails to gain the nomination, then feels just bitter enough to stay in the race as an independent. He might just hold the cards necessary to serve as a third-party spoiler, siphoning off enough votes from the Democratic nominee to hand President Trump a second term.