My first thought when former New York City Mayor and astonishingly wealthy Michael Bloomberg said he would toss his hat in the 2020 presidential rink, was, "oh no!" Do we need another middle of the road white billionaire in the presidential race at a time when poverty, wealth inequality has become standard talking points for the Democrats? The two top tier Democrat contenders, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have furiously tried to out left each other with their attacks on the corporate order. Biden and Buttigieg, even while trying to carve out their niche as the party's top centrists, still take their whacks at the rich and often sound like big spending, welfare statuesque echoes of the left Democrats.
So, how then could Bloomberg steal Trump talking points on farm issues, jobs and trade and make it resonate with voters in the five heartland states that will decide the White House? It seemed almost laughable, if not ludicrous, that Bloomberg, the consummate New Yorker, and a liberal, could pull this off.
Then there is Bloomberg's record as NYC Mayor. He deservedly took much heat for cheerleading the heinous stop and frisk rousting of tens of thousands of young Blacks and Hispanics on NYC streets who in almost all cases committed no crimes during his 12-year mayoral tenure.
But then something, actually several somethings, happened that dramatically changed the game for Bloomberg that has made me and lots of others take him seriously. He went to Harlem and formally apologized for the hurt and suffering and shattered lives that his tout of stop and frisk caused to countless numbers of young Blacks and Hispanics victimized by this heinous practice. There were lots of skeptics that his mea culpa was too little too late and that he was just doing this to salvage his reputation and boost his campaign. After all, if you're going to run for president as a Democrat, you're going to need a lot of Black and Hispanic voters in your corner. And you can't afford to tick them off out the gate with a racially tainted shadow hanging over you. Stop and frisk was that.
Whatever his motive in apologizing, he did it, and, if nothing else, it sent the right signal to law enforcement that stop and frisk, and racial profiling, is not legitimate crime fighting tools but harassment pure and simple. When police engage in this, the message from Bloomberg now is, stop it.
He also skipped the rough house brawling of the Democratic debates and dumped tens of millions of his own money into his campaign. This shows that he is not simply another rich guy teasing the public and the media to keep his name out there, and maybe get a bit more leverage within Democratic presidential circles. It was more than the money, though. He has two big selling points beyond his earnest money. One is his pledge that he will practically spend the bank to hector, harass, lambaste, and expose Trump's lies, hypocrisy, corruption and the stunning danger his rule poses. The other is that he has put together comprehensive, thoughtful positions on education, jobs, public works, and housing.
The one that really catches the eye, though, is his $70 billion economic pledge to boost Black America. Bloomberg is the first top Democratic presidential candidate who has made the stupendous gap between poor and working-class Blacks and just about everybody else in America a front burner issue. For decades Democrats and that included Obama have repeatedly tipped toed around this for fear of being ripped by the GOP as playing the race card and pandering to Blacks. This supposedly was a sure-fire way to lose white votes. Bloomberg's bold pronouncement of his version of a sort of Marshal Plan for Blacks marks a bold departure from the past Democratic script on Blacks.
No Democratic presidential contender has a fighting chance to oust Trump from the Oval Office without a massive ramp up of the Black vote in the battleground states. Every one of these votes will be needed to offset Trump's rabid and fired up base. That is less educated, low-income blue collar and rural whites. Black voters virtually turned the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections into a crusade for Obama and that made a big difference in helping put him over the top.
Bloomberg has steadily risen in the polls and that can't be solely attributed to pumping his big bucks into the campaign. It's also because he is willing to take sound positions om the big-ticket issues and he manages to seem sincere in doing it. His willingness to relentlessly hammer Trump has also hasn't hurt his case. His frontal pledge to tackle the chronic woes of Black America is the topper. Therefore, I'm rethinking Bloomberg. My guess is others will too
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of The Impeachment of President Trump? (Amazon) Free Amazon Read https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075XSXJM8
He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.