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Bloomberg is too risky

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Any analysis of Michael Bloomberg as a potential Democratic candidate should start with the fact that (with the possible exception of Tulsi, who doesn’t really count given that she’s pretty much openly campaigning for a the-party-left-me Fox News sinecure as opposed to the Democratic nomination at this point) he’s BY FAR the worst choice on the merits:

Michael Bloomberg was, until a couple months ago, one of America’s leading advocates for racially discriminatory policingfinancial deregulation, and slashing Social Security and Medicaid benefits. The 77-year-old billionaire has an undisputed history of making sexist remarks to female subordinates and three active sexual-harassment lawsuits pending against his company. He endorsed George W. Bush at the 2004 Republican National Convention; campaigned with Rudy Giuliani in 2009; and spent $11.7 million on helping a pro-life Republican senator narrowly defeat a female Democratic challenger in Pennsylvania just four years ago.

The fact that he wanted the Senate kept in Republican hands in 2016 should, in itself, be a clear indication about what his actual policy priorities are, and also raises very serious concerns about what his judicial and executive branch appointments would look like. To continue:

In 2014, Bloomberg gave $3 million to Michigan governor Rick Snyder, the conservative Republican who presided over the mass poisoning of Flint’s water supply. The supposedly “socially liberal” billionaire’s rationale for backing a self-described “pro-life, pro-Second Amendment” Republican? Snyder was, in Bloomberg’s words, a guy “who took on the unions to get Detroit and Michigan going in the right direction. And he was re-elected despite being attacked by the unions.”

In other words: Michael Bloomberg has spent much of the past two decades publicly voicing contempt for core Democratic constituencies (young nonwhite peopleprofessional women, the poor, and labor unions) while undermining their policy priorities (flouting civil liberties protections for marginalized groups, bankrolling pro-life Republicans, championing draconian safety-net cuts, and lavishing praise on right-to-work laws). Meanwhile, the billionaire has also committed myriad affronts against Democrats as Democrats — not least, by opposing the party the last time it tried to prevent a lawless GOP president from renewing his lease on the White House.

I think the idea of Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee in 2020 is essentially silly, but the guy is a generic, middle-of-the-road Democrat. Bloomberg is far worse. Not even close.

To justify a nominee who is this bad on the merits, there would have to be an incredibly strong case that he’s clearly the best choice to beat Trump, and of course there isn’t:

This is the honest case for Michael Bloomberg. It is an argument for Democrats to accept that the best that they can hope for in 2020 is benevolent plutocracy: There is no campaign capable of defeating Trumpism through organizing and reasoned argument, so best to let a billionaire drown it in an ocean of propaganda; there’s no mass movement capable of breaking through D.C.’s gridlock, so let’s see if Lisa Murkowski has a price.

I can’t tell you that this case is wrong. But I can say that we have little reason to believe that it is right.

Maybe Bloomberg’s money can bend our political system to his will; or maybe no amount of advertisements can convince Rust Belt swing voters to support a historically uncharismatic candidate who disdains their “gray matter.” Maybe president Bloomberg would use his awesome, unaccountable financial power to get sweeping climate legislation through the Senate; or maybe he’ll use it to gut the social safety net. Maybe casting our lot with ourteam’s racist, misogynist, instinctually authoritarian billionaire will save our democracy by keeping the ethnonationalist right out of power just long enough for its voting base to die off; or maybe doing so will extinguish the possibility of achieving genuine popular self-rule in the United States, as Bloomberg’s success inspires a series of super-rich imitators until we all become the subjects of Supreme Leader Bezos.

All we know is that we do not know. And if rallying behind the better of two plutocrats isn’t even guaranteed to “work,” on its own terms — if, to the contrary, there are many reasons to believe it would fail — why on Earth would we make that bet? Why roll the dice on beneficent oligarchy when social democracy looks like (at least) as safe a gamble?

The “electability” story is for Bloomberg is just the same speculative, unfalsifiable just-so story you can tell for any other remotely serious candidate. Yes, he has tons of money he might leave on the sidelines if someone else is the nominee. Yes, it is a net negative in a national election that Sanders labels his New Deal left-liberalism “socialism,” Warren could be EMAILsed with native ancestry claims, etc. etc. But on the other hand, Bloomberg is an old guy with no charisma and a history of alienating constituencies he would need to turn out in high numbers, and his combination of fiscal conservatism and nanny state social-quasi-liberalism appeals to basically nobody who doesn’t have a job as a C-suite executive or six-figure op-ed columnist.

So, in conclusion, Bloomberg is the worst remotely viable candidate on the merits by a huge margin, and the case for his “electability” is certainly no better than for any of the others and is arguably worse. Just say no.

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