Democrats cannot afford to dismiss Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's Jan. 6 speech was a missed opportunity to unite the nation Democrats must face the reality of their Latino voter problem Invest in kids and families now so that someday I'll be out of a job MORE. In a normal election cycle, I would not give much attention to his candidacy, certainly not as a Democrat. But as we all know, this is not a normal election cycle, and the fallout from the reelection of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE would only enforce his authoritarian tendencies. Bloomberg could beat Trump in a general election. He is better than Trump in every way. Successful businessman, check. Dedicated philanthropist, check. Effective politician, check.
Is Bloomberg perfect? Not even close. But at this point, what candidate is? Would his nomination ensure that Democrats get to fill a Supreme Court seat? Without question. Democrats need to think really hard about what the goal is for 2020. Are we willing to risk losing to Trump to satisfy a purity test? Do not get me wrong, I support the progressive wing of the party and often find myself criticizing the establishment as uninspiring.
But can anyone justify the type of campaign approach that could lead to a second term for Trump? None of the policies proposed by the candidates right now will matter if we lose to Trump in 2020. We need real victories, not moral ones. Democrats want to protect abortion rights. Democrats want a better education system. Democrats want policies that work for our most vulnerable. None of that is possible if Trump is reelected.
It is not the time to let perfection be the enemy of the good. At 77 years old, Bloomberg may be a one term president. If you support Stacey Abrams, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, or Cory Booker, then a Bloomberg nomination and election almost ensures that one of them will be the next vice president and then front runner for president in 2024. This cannot be overlooked. With the obvious vulnerabilities of candidates like Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, Democrats need to start having conversations about who is best positioned to defeat Trump next year.
Appealing to voters in a Democratic primary is a whole different beast compared to appealing to voters in a general election. This is why there are legitimate questions about whether candidates like Warren can pivot to a general election strategy. Those same questions are not an issue for Bloomberg. Like other moderates in this race, he is awkwardly positioned for a progressive primary, but well positioned for the general election. Some would say that Bloomberg is Biden but without the baggage.
Unsurprisingly, we have already seen misguided attacks on his wealth from other candidates, who should look back at 2016 and the effect that false comparisons had on the electability of Hillary Clinton. During the general election, far too many pundits on both sides of the aisle drew false comparisons between Clinton and Trump. Clinton may have been risk averse and evasive, but Trump has been a disturbingly prolific liar. To compare the two would be like comparing jaywalking to robbing a bank. They are in totally different categories. Unfortunately, that narrative stuck with Clinton and greatly contributed to her downfall three years ago.
Democrats cannot afford to fall into the same trap with Bloomberg. Unlike Trump, he did not inherit his money from his father. He went from middle class upbringing to one of the richest men in the world. We can debate the merits of so much wealth concentrated in one person, but in terms of hard work, Bloomberg created a product that many people all over the world want. Living the American dream should be celebrated rather than denigrated. Attacking him for being rich without providing context into how he earned his money is disingenuous at best. Bloomberg is by no means the ideal Democrat, but this is by no means a normal situation.
Indeed, Bloomberg is a complicated candidate running in the midst of complicated times. His recent comments related to Booker were foolish, and his defense of China during an interview with Margaret Hoover came off as out of touch and misguided. But his record of supporting efforts to fight climate change, elect politicians who support gun control, and build affordable housing in urban areas fall into line with exactly the kind of policies that Democrats support. Whether you agree or disagree with Bloomberg, his credentials are undeniable. He will undoubtedly need to atone for his record on criminal justice and the adverse effect it has had on communities of color. If you are rightly upset about stop and frisk, however, imagine what a second term under Trump would look like.
Ultimately, his candidacy may prove to be unsuccessful, but Bloomberg should not be dismissed by Democrats. The stakes in this election are far too high. Defeating Trump should be the sole focus for the party in 2020. In a primary race that is tilting more to the left, a moderate may provide Democrats with the best chances of winning back the White House.
Michael Starr Hopkins is the founding partner of Northern Starr Strategies. He served on the Democratic presidential campaigns for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Delaney. Follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.