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Democrats Don't Need Mike Bloomberg's Kinder, Gentler Plutocracy

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From The Nation

If the Democrats trade a faux billionaire for a legit billionaire, then they haven't learned much from the last four years.

Could Mike Bloomberg be a presidential candidate to beat?
Could Mike Bloomberg be a presidential candidate to beat?
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One of the world's wealthiest men has decided to try to buy his way into the Democratic presidential primary. Good. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's late-starting bid gives the party a chance to define what it will be in 2020 -- and, hopefully, what it will not be.

Bloomberg, who unlike the current occupant of the White House is a seriously rich man, entered the Democratic race in business-like fashion -- with a Monday-morning brand launch. He's telling us what we already know -- that Trump represents an "existential threat to our country and our values," but he is saying it loud, with a $31.5 million ad buy.

That kind of spending gets political insiders salivating, especially when they know it's coming out of Bloomberg's very deep well of personal wealth. Ironically, with all that paid media comes lots of free media. As with Trump, Bloomberg's money will get him all the attention that our broken media system's fixation with wealth and power can "buy."

For the pundit class, Bloomberg's entry raises some legitimate questions, like: "How pathetic is Joe Biden's front-runner bid that Bloomberg sees a space for an aging moderate to enter the Democratic competition?" and "How pathetic is the field of candidates who are challenging Biden for the middle ground that Bloomberg sees a space for an aging moderate to enter the Democratic competition?"

For Democratic voters, however, what matters is not this horse race calculus. It is the deeper question of the direction that will be taken by a party that must define itself in order to defeat not just Donald Trump but also the scourge of Trumpism. If Democrats decide that the answer to a faux billionaire is a legit billionaire, then they have not learned much from the past four years.

Bloomberg is a different, and better, man than Trump. He proposes fairer taxation, a tougher stance against gun violence, and a welcome recognition of science with regard to the climate crisis. Like Trump, however, he is a political entrepreneur who sees running for the presidency as an enterprise rather a mission. Bloomberg's a little more poetic than Trump. But no one is going to mistake this Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat media mogul for a radical advocate of great big structural change. Where Trump proposed to "Make America Great Again," Bloomberg wants to "rebuild the country and restore faith in the dream that defines us."

So far, Bloomberg hasn't stirred much enthusiasm beyond the few precincts where stockbrokers and pundits are measurable demographics. Last week's Politico/Morning Consult poll had Bloomberg tied with Universal Basic Income advocate Andrew Yang -- at 3 percent -- while the latest Des Moines Register poll of potential Iowa caucus-goers has the former mayor running a point behind the other billionaire in the Democratic race, Tom Steyer.

Yet, the prospect that Bloomberg, who is worth something like $54 billion, could buy a place on the debate stage has got the DC insiders and the billionaire class all atwitter. He offers them more of the politics they know.

The problem is, the politics Democratic insiders and their amen corner want to rebuild is the politics of caution and compromise that created an opening for Trump in 2016. And more of the same is not going to close the door on Trumpism in 2020. Because of Trump's absolute failure as a president, the desperation for change that shaped the last election is going to be amplified in the next one.

The Democrats who have been campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada -- states Bloomberg will skip on his way to a Super Tuesday start --- are convinced that voters will recognize the folly of Bloomberg's candidacy.

This billionaire's "not going to get very far in this election," says Bernie Sanders, who told a New Hampshire town hall on Sunday, "We do not believe that billionaires have the right to buy elections, and that is why we are going to overturn Citizens United, that is why multi-billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg are not going to get very far in this election, that is why we are going to end voter suppression in America."

Sanders is not the only candidate who recognizes there is something wrong with a campaign finance system that allows billionaire candidates to buy places on debate stages.

But the senator takes the critique a good deal further than most of the others. In 2016, he ran against "the billionaire class" of wealthy donors and corporate investors that has so warped our governance. In September, Sanders wrote, "There should be no billionaires. We are going to tax their extreme wealth and invest in working people." Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has parted company with Sanders on this issue. Like Sanders, she would tax them, a lot. But Warren says, "You build a great fortune in this country, good for you."

Sanders and Warren have a reasonable disagreement on this issue, and it offers a reasonable starting point for the debate Democrats should be having about how to position for 2020. If Bloomberg wants to join in, fine. He can whine, if he wants, about the incivility of haters who make a big deal about plutocracy and oligarchy. But he should be forewarned that someone might bring history to the table and remind Democrats that when they were winning really big victories their standard-bearer told crowds, "We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace -- business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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2 people are discussing this page, with 3 comments  Post Comment


Dennis Kaiser

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The truth is the corporatist democrats see none of their chosen candidates are meeting the approval of the voters no matter how they slant the poll figures or demonize those not in their favor or even shut them out completely so they are in panic mode, even debating bringing in the least liked person in America.

Presently, and most likely their last bang at making a candidate stick is Pete Buttigieg, the epitome of a used car salesman in terms of trustworthiness and actually in experience for the job for that matter, but it makes little matter as they feel he will dance to their music if they can convince the voting public. It's just a matter of how long they can keep all of his skeletons in the closet.

Bring in Republican Mike Bloomberg and his ultra-fat wallet, h*ll he even has a built-in news department at no expense. He has the dollars whereas the Democrat Party is broke in platform as well as dollars and they are certainly against any candidate trying to bring in a winnable platform.

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 at 2:27:02 PM

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Lon Hirsch

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Reply to Dennis Kaiser:   New Content

stunning, isn't it?

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 27, 2019 at 11:50:29 PM

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Dennis Kaiser

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Reply to Lon Hirsch:   New Content

Depressing to say the least. The only recourse people have is to wake up and use the MSM brainwashing to our favor. That would be first by rejecting every candidate being pushed on us by the media propagandists, and then getting behind those candidates the MSM is demonizing and shutting out as being against the corporatists is actually for the average person.

Submitted on Thursday, Nov 28, 2019 at 12:50:57 PM

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