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Back in November Mike Bloomberg was polling at four percent nationally -- and had the highest disapproval rating of any potential Democratic presidential candidate, and understandably so; the man has a uniquely horrible record and no redeeming traits to speak of.
Now, after spending $400 million in broadcast, radio and cable ads, $42 million on Facebook ads, $36 million on Google ads, and an unknown fortune on other shady manipulations, a national Quinnipiac poll released last week put him at 15 percent nationally in the Democratic primary. This week national polls released by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist and Zogby put him at 19 and 20 percent, respectively.
You can argue against the validity of polls all you like, and surely none of them are pristine representations of public opinion. But there's no denying that these numbers have gone way up, and there's no denying that now, approvingly or not, everyone's talking about Michael Bloomberg.
Late night talk show hosts are doing bits about the prevalence of Bloomberg ads. People are making satirical videos spoofing them. I've seen parents complaining that their kids recite lines from his ads at the dinner table. It's a story in itself. It's saturating social consciousness. It's very much a thing.
"Nothing remotely like what Mike Bloomberg is doing has ever been seen in US politics -- nothing in the same universe," journalist Glenn Greenwald recently tweeted. "And the threat and danger it (and he) poses to US democracy is equally without comparison."
Greenwald is of course correct. But while Bloomberg is doing something that is without precedent, his campaign is also highlighting problems with the system which have existed for ages. And in my opinion it would be an unfortunate waste if his campaign came and went without these problems getting more attention than they currently are.
Mike Bloomberg is not the first plutocrat to use his wealth to manipulate a US election, and he is not the first plutocrat to use his wealth to manipulate public perception. He's just the first to do it so brazenly and ham-fistedly. The fact that it is both possible and easy for a billionaire to throw a vast fortune at an electoral race and drastically influence its direction tells us everything we need to know about the illusory nature of US democracy. And now it's right out in the open.
As long as a small elite group are able to manipulate the way people think and vote, then you don't have democracy, you have oligarchy. If that small elite group happens to be much wealthier than everyone else, then it's a specific kind of oligarchy known as plutocracy. You can watch this video and this video for some general information on the ways US plutocrats exert control over the political system, and you can read this fascinating thread here for more specific information on how Bloomberg has been stifling opposition and manipulating endorsements out of political figures using his unparalleled spending power.