Why Progressives Fear Michael Bloomberg

While much of both mainstream and progressive news is focused on the debacle in Iowa and the results of the New Hampshire primary, billionaire Michael Bloomberg has been campaigning in Super Tuesday states.

Bloomberg bills himself as a self-made alternative to Trump — an ultra-wealthy businessman who (he claims) is beholden to nobody and will use his billions for good instead of evil.

Progressives, however, have serious concerns about Bloomberg’s candidacy and its implication for democracy.

As Nina Turner, one of the national co-chairs for the Bernie Sanders campaign. says in the above video:

He [Senator Sanders] went to the people and laid out his vision and his message, unlike the billionaire who is buying the elections. As you know, he [Mayor Bloomberg] skipped Iowa. He is skipping New Hampshire, skipping Nevada and South Carolina…he is flat out trying to buy the White House.

Bloomberg’s supporters are offended by the idea that their candidate is buying the election, but progressives’ concerns are founded not only on his behavior during this campaign season but on his track record of using money to gain power for himself.

According to the New York Post, Bloomberg was able to get a third term as mayor of New York City by using his vast financial resources to lobby for an exception to term limit rules. He donated generously to a variety of non-profit organizations, then asked the leadership of those organizations to advocate for him to get another term as mayor.  Then, after he got that exception, he spent $109 million on his own campaign.

Similarly, Bloomberg recently gave $300,000 to the Democratic National Committee, after which the DNC changed their requirements for participating in debates, making Bloomberg eligible to participate. This was made even more egregious by the fact that the DNC had already refused to change the rules for Cory Booker, Julian Castro, and Tulsi Gabbard — three candidates of color who did not meet both the polling and donor criteria for participation — yet scrapped the donor requirement as soon as Bloomberg asked them to.

When coupled with the fact that Bloomberg entered the race late and skipped the first four contests, choosing instead to spend over $250 million on advertising in Super Tuesday states, the messaging behind his campaign is clear: those who have money can and should use it to gain power at the expense of those who have considerably less cash on hand.

Progressives don’t think that Bloomberg’s attempt to buy the race will be limited to his ad buys, either. In addition to having essentially bought his way into the debates, Bloomberg is attempting to influence the DNC to renege on the reforms to its voting process that were designed to make the process fairer.

After the 2016 Presidential election, the DNC reformed its policy on superdelegates — unpledged delegates who could vote for any candidate they chose at the nominating convention.  Superdelegates are different from pledged delegates, who must vote for a particular candidate at the convention.

Currently, superdelegates are only allowed to vote if no one candidate earns a majority of pledged delegates during the primary process.

However, two Bloomberg surrogates currently sit on the DNC’s Rules Committee. This means that those surrogates have the power to attempt to re-open the discussion of superdelegates ahead of the convention. If they do this, they could attempt to reinstate the policy of allowing superdelegates to vote on the first ballot. This would allow superdelegates to override voters’ wishes even if one candidate gets the majority of pledged delegates.

And given Bloomberg’s history of using his wealth to get what he wants, it would be unsurprising if he or his surrogates offered other members of the DNC Rules Committee sizable donations in exchange for lobbying for this rule change.

Bloomberg has been fighting against the superdelegate reform since 2017, writing editorials against it in Bloomberg News — the media site that he owns and which he uses to advance his career.

In true oligarchical fashion, he decreed years ago that his news outlets would not cover his political career. He said recently that it would not cover his rivals’ campaigns, either — a move that drew criticism from journalists and an ethics professor. Less than a month later, however, Bloomberg News violated that edict by running a hit piece against Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. (Common Dreams, February 6, 2020)

Obviously, reporting on Presidential campaigns while running for President is a conflict of interest, and if Common Dreams’ assertion is correct, Bloomberg has used his media empire to inoculate himself against criticism throughout his career — making Bloomberg News essentially a government-run propaganda site masquerading objective news.

Progressives are repulsed because Bloomberg constantly uses his wealth to undermine democracy by giving donations and then expecting political favors in return. Even Bloomberg’s pledge to financially support the Democratic nominee is disturbing given this history, as he will undoubtedly expect that person to lobby for his causes once they get into office.

In addition, Bloomberg has a history of problematic policies that is not dissimilar to Trump’s. Here is a partial list of those he enacted while mayor of New York City:

  • Expanded the stop-and-frisk program, with a specific focus on stopping young men of color on the street and searching them without cause. 90 percent of the people affected were innocent of any crime whatsoever. This policy increased tensions between police officers and residents of non-white communities, exacerbating stress and anxiety for families of color living in New York City

  • Refused to approve salary increases for municipal employees unless union representatives agreed to cuts in benefits

  • Threatened to veto a living wage bill, likening giving workers a living wage to “Soviet-style communism”

  • Forced the acting principal of New York City’s only Arabic dual-language program to resign based on unsubstantiated claims that she was a terrorist

  • Stopped checking for lead paint in public housing apartments, leading to increased rates of illness in poor children

  • Required homeless people to prove to shelters that they were out of options before they could be admitted, on the grounds that this law stopped rich people from pretending to be poor in order to get shelter

  • Allowed charter schools to use city school buildings while pushing for the closure of public schools

Non-progressives sometimes dismiss critiques of these policies as “purity tests,” but progressives are not inclined to vote for someone who attempts to use wealth to buy elections and then uses his power to keep poor people stuck in poverty while continuing to increase his own wealth.

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