Where the Bloomberg candidacy makes sense

Where the Bloomberg candidacy makes sense
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To the Democratic Party establishment, former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergDNC announces new criteria for New Hampshire debate Bloomberg receives 45-day extension for public financial disclosure report with FEC Bloomberg's congressional endorsers grow to three MORE represents standby equipment: “In case of emergency, break glass and nominate Bloomberg.”

What would be the emergency?

Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden alleges Sanders campaign 'doctored video' to attack him on Social Security record Sanders campaign responds to Biden doctored video claims: Biden should 'stop trying to doctor' public record Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger pens op-ed in defense of Biden: 'I stuttered once, too. I dare you to mock me' MORE could falter in the early primary states and see one of his main rivals — Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Environmental activists interrupt Buttigieg in New Hampshire Pence to visit Iowa days before caucuses MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden alleges Sanders campaign 'doctored video' to attack him on Social Security record Sanders campaign responds to Biden doctored video claims: Biden should 'stop trying to doctor' public record The Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary MORE (I-Vt.) or South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegThe Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Environmental activists interrupt Buttigieg in New Hampshire Pence to visit Iowa days before caucuses MORE — become the frontrunner. Biden continues to lead national polls of Democrats, but his support has been faltering. He’s not ahead in either Iowa, where Buttgieg now leads in the polls, or New Hampshire, where he’s running behind Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren.

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The party establishment is desperate to defeat Donald Trump. They believe Biden is the most likely to do that. Biden claims that’s why Trump is trying to discredit him. Last week in Iowa, Biden said, “I believe Donald Trump believes I will beat Donald Trump.”

We could end up with a split decision in the early primaries with different candidates winning Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. A split decision would mean “No Mo” — no Democrat gaining momentum and an unending squabble for delegates.

Time to break the glass!

What’s the emergency? Party leaders know that if Biden falters, Democrats will have a hard time coming up with a candidate who can beat Trump. Staunch progressives like Warren and Sanders could have trouble winning back the working class white voters in the Rust Belt who gave Trump victory in 2016. Buttigieg is young and inexperienced. He also antagonizes progressive Democrats with his call for moderation.

What will happen if Warren or Sanders or Buttigieg wins the nomination? Trump will “eat ‘em up,” says Michael Bloomberg, a fellow New York City billionaire who has had years of experience dealing with Donald Trump. “I’m a New Yorker,” Bloomberg told the 2016 Democratic convention, “and I know a con when I see one.”

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In 2020, Democrats need to capture the hordes of educated suburban voters who have been fleeing the Republican Party since Trump became president. Bloomberg may be well-suited to do that. He calls himself “a social liberal, fiscal moderate, who is basically nonpartisan.” He was elected mayor first as a Republican and later as an Independent. He registered as a Democrat in 2018.

Bloomberg’s campaign is already antagonizing progressive Democrats who don’t like his centrist policies. Last month, at a campaign event in Iowa, Sanders threatened Bloomberg saying, “Tonight we say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires: ‘Sorry, you ain’t gonna buy this election.’” Still, if Bloomberg were to win the nomination, it’s hard to believe that progressive Democrats like Sanders would run the risk of helping Donald Trump get re-elected by refusing to support Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has one big liability: It’s not wealth — It’s elitism.

While Trump panders shamelessly to populist sentiment, Bloomberg doesn’t have a populist bone in his body. As mayor, his governing principle seemed to be, “Trust me. I know what I’m doing. And I know what’s good for you.” Like banning smoking in bars and restaurants and limiting sales of sugary soft drinks.

It’s a trap educated liberals often fall into: condescension.

Barak Obama made that mistake in his 2008 campaign when he talked about rural voters who “cling to guns or religion … as a way to explain their frustrations.” Those are now Trump voters.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters The Memo: Sanders-Warren battle could reshape Democratic primary Rosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts MORE fell into the condescension trap in 2016 when she said, “Half of Donald Trump’s supporters belong in a basket of deplorables” characterized by “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” views. Trump supporters responded by wearing buttons labeling themselves “Deplorable.”

Elizabeth Warren fell into the trap this year when she was asked what she would say to someone who told her they believed that “marriage is between one man and one woman.” Warren responded, “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that. And I’m going to say, then just marry one woman … assuming you can find one.”

Bloomberg’s signature issue is gun control. He has staked out a position considerably to the left of other Democratic contenders by calling for a national gun licensing system. This year, his gun control advocacy organization spent $2.5 million to help Democrats win control of the Virginia legislature, easily outspending the National Rifle Association.

One of Mayor Bloomberg’s biggest issues of contention with the left — and especially with African-Americans and Latinos — was his “stop and frisk” policing policy. Last month, he went before an African-American audience to apologize for that policy, saying, “I was wrong. And I am sorry … I got something important really wrong, I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities.” Has President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE ever publicly apologized for anything?

Bloomberg defends his wealth by saying, “I’m doing exactly the same thing [other candidates] are doing, except that I am using my own money. They’re using somebody else’s money, and those other people expect something from them … I don’t want to be bought.” 

It’s not likely that wealth will be Michael Bloomberg’s undoing. Two of the Democratic Party’s greatest heroes, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, were wealthy men.

Most voters understand the wisdom of a joke told by an old-time comedian named Fred Allen who said, “There are many things in life that are more important than money. And they all cost money.”

Bill Schneider is a professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and author of ‘Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable (Simon & Schuster).