Lets pretend, if you will, that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is for real this time. If we can imagine that instead of flirting with a White House run as he’s done several times in the past, the perennial presidential candidate and recently re-registered Democrat actually throws his hat in the ring; he stands almost no chance of securing the Democratic nomination in 2020.
First of all, lets talk about his last dance with the Presidency. It was in 2012 and would have been against the Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBill Maher, Isiah Thomas score over the NFL's playing of 'Black national anthem' Democrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' White House debates vaccines for air travel MORE; who in case you forgot, is still incredibly popular with Democrats. Although he came around to endorsing him just days before the election, Bloomberg spent a year criticizing the President for his poorly-thought economic policy and failure to bring people together and provide leadership. His opponents, especially Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE, will be quick to remind the progressives that this New York billionaire was an impediment to the Obama agenda, not an ally.
His record as mayor certainly does not endear him to the Democratic base. Sure, under Bill de Blasio and in the era of Rahm Emmanuel, there is certainly some palatable nostalgia for the return to the mayoralty of a person like Mike Bloomberg. After all, he was competent; and for progressives, he’s not Rudy Giuliani.
But beyond that, things get murky.
Recall the brief outrage earlier this week when Trump called on police in Chicago to increase their use of “stop and frisk.” Now try to imagine the Democratic frontrunner having the same opinion, and a record to match. Not only did Bloomberg support Giuliani’s use of “stop and frisk,” he doubled down on it, increasing its prevalence by over 500 percent. Moreover, he said minorities were actually stopped “too little.”
His record on law and order will not play well in 2020, in what will surely be a race to see who is the most progressive.
Moderate Americans have likely forgotten how he cracked down on Occupy Wall Street; or if they haven’t, they likely condone it. But liberals called it “disgraceful” in 2011; and at a time when the #resist movement has only expanded on the momentum of #Occupy, they are not likely to see Bloomberg as their champion. This is, after all, a motivated group of primary voters that views cities like San Francisco, with its free flowing feces, as a Mecca, rather than a model of failed progressive government.
Let me be clear, Bloomberg was not a bad mayor in the big picture, the city thrived; but even those things for which he normally gets praised are not all they are cracked up to be. When the city faced fiscal deficits, for example, the financial wizard did not dip into any secret bag of billionaire sorcery. He simply raised taxes on middle-class New Yorkers: 18 percent in 2002 and 7 percent in 2008.
Bloomberg’s efforts to save money, however, were unique. Instead of using his negotiating skills to bargain for the best deal with the city’s municipal labor force, he kicked the can to the next guy. By the time he left office, more than 150 of the city’s unions had expired contracts which fell on the shoulders his successor. Bloomberg’s tumultuous relationship with labor, including once comparing the teachers union to the N.R.A., will not garner their critical support in a Democratic primary.
He clearly wasn’t thinking of 2020 when he used his last public speech as mayor to denounce the “Labor-Electoral Complex.”
When raising taxes and avoiding labor eventually proved insufficient to fund his spending, he raised fines and fees on small businesses, and unleashed a torrent of new inspectors to harass owners for trivial infractions. Even Bill de Blasio made protecting ‘mom and pop’ shops from the Bloomberg administration a critical piece of his 2013 campaign.
Michael Bloomberg simply loved rules. He wanted more of them; new dictates to go beyond old ones; inconsequential regulations and mayoral fiats of every kind. He knew what was best, and would surely let you know. From sodium, to trans fats, and back to Styrofoam; common sense, free will, and personal responsibility be damned. If opinion makers chose to use the term “Bloomberg-ism,” it would unquestionably be a synonym for “nanny-statism.”
While some of these bans, especially those with the environment in mind, will play well to the base; they will also ensure that his record is used as a punch line. Middle-Americans will laugh, only half-jokingly, that if Bloomberg were elected President he’d move to ban cars, heating oil, loud headphones, and even your Dr. Pepper.
For many, Bloomberg’s bans are Bloomberg’s legacy.
Yet for progressives, the distaste runs deeper than any sugary drink. The homeless crisis, for example, which the current mayor seems helpless to stop, exploded under Mayor Bloomberg, who at one time proposed to simply buy them one-way bus tickets out of town... seriously.
If he takes the debate stage in 2020, you can bet that Bloomberg’s opponents are going to pull no punches when it comes to his record on gentrification and affordable housing. Moreover, don’t be surprised if they even try to paint him as a Trump-lite when it comes to his past defense of the NYPD’s Muslim spying.
Unlike the time he used the Republican Party to become mayor, or the time he “bought” his third term, Bloomberg’s path to the White House through the Democratic Primary isn’t going to end well for him.
Joseph Borelli is the minority whip of the New York City Council, Republican commentator, professor and Lindsay Fellow at the City University of New York's Institute for State and Local Governance. He has also been published in the NY Daily News, Washington Examiner, and appears on Fox News, Fox Business, BBC, CNN and HLN. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeBorelliNYC.