Bloomberg underscores that only pragmatism can defeat Trump

Bloomberg underscores that only pragmatism can defeat Trump
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I recently watched Amy Goodman’s program, “Democracy Now,” when she was reporting from the UN Climate Change conference in Madrid. Things got interesting when Goodman tracked Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergUnion leader: Bloomberg can go all the way Democratic rivals sharpen attacks as Bloomberg rises A Trump supporter's defense of Michael Bloomberg MORE out of the venue of the conference — for minutes on end. The journalist repeatedly shouted a question at the former mayor, who ignored her and was largely shielded by his entourage as they continued on foot to a destination that never seemed to arrive. It was not a good look for Bloomberg, and Goodman played the scene to maximum effect

Though minor, the incident actually has troubling implications for Democratic prospects against Donald Trump in 2020.

Goodman's charge was that because the Madrid meeting had identified inequality as a driver of climate change, Bloomberg was a hypocrite for attempting to win the presidency by leveraging his personal fortune. The logic was tortuous, but the contempt was unmistakable — not only for Bloomberg’s candidacy, but for what he, perhaps more than any single individual on the planet, has done to combat global warming.


By mobilizing states and municipalities to meet U.S. commitments under the Paris Agreement despite President TrumpDonald John TrumpChanges in policies, not personalities, will improve perception of corruption in the US Union leader: Bloomberg can go all the way Pelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' MORE’s shameful withdrawal, Bloomberg has helped keep a flicker of U.S. global leadership alive in benighted times.

It is understandable that progressives would not favor Bloomberg’s candidacy, notwithstanding his ardent support for many progressive causes. At this stage of the campaign there are candidates on the left, notably Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren highlights work with Obama, Harry Reid in new Nevada ad Union leader: Bloomberg can go all the way Biden on Univision: Deporting 3 million 'was a big mistake' MORE (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren highlights work with Obama, Harry Reid in new Nevada ad Biden on Univision: Deporting 3 million 'was a big mistake' Democratic rivals sharpen attacks as Bloomberg rises MORE (D-Mass.), with a realistic shot at the nomination who have a better claim on those voters. But the idea that Michael Bloomberg might be viewed by progressives as an inconceivable nominee under any circumstances is a bad sign for Democrats of all persuasions. 

For one, holding his wealth against him is not something most Americans would regard as appropriate in and of itself. Bloomberg is an American success story; he comes from a middle-class background and owes his wealth only to his own entrepreneurial and managerial genius. He has created value and contributed to the general prosperity, not enriched himself through speculation or exploitation. And he is intent on giving virtually his entire fortune away. Far from being an emblem of inequality, his philanthropy promotes progress and expanded opportunity with regard to health, education and other critical issues. 

The separate charge that Bloomberg is attempting to buy the presidency has more to it, but only somewhat. In reality his wealth is meant to compensate for a deficit of political skills. He would likely give anything to have the eloquence of Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegWill Bernie have to turn on his bros? Democratic rivals sharpen attacks as Bloomberg rises Now's a time to take a look at who's 'blooming' among Democrats MORE, the plainspoken folksiness of Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren highlights work with Obama, Harry Reid in new Nevada ad Biden on Univision: Deporting 3 million 'was a big mistake' Pelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' MORE or the fire of Bernie Sanders. What his money buys is the opportunity to acquaint voters with unique leadership and problem-solving skills that would potentially make Bloomberg an outstanding chief executive for the nation. By self-financing, moreover, he is the only candidate in the race of either party who cannot be corrupted by political donations. 

The fact is that until the disgraceful current system of campaign finance in the United States is reformed, Democrats can compete with Republicans only if they are able to match them financially. In that respect, Michael Bloomberg is doing more than anyone in the party to ensure a level playing field — underwriting multiple efforts aimed at identifying, registering and mobilizing every potential voter against Donald Trump. Given that his candidacy is a long shot, his efforts will likely benefit someone else. Bloomberg will in fact do everything he can to help any of his rivals defeat Trump. Would that the same could be said of all.


It is surely now critical for progressives to learn from their ideological opposites, who seem to take elections and their consequences for policy and governance far more seriously.

In 2016 conservatives cynically embraced a man who shared neither their values nor convictions in relentless pursuit of a right-wing agenda. Can it be that liberals value the shape and direction of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary less than conservatives?

The election in 2000, which yielded the catastrophic war in Iraq, underscores the same point.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonUnion leader: Bloomberg can go all the way Will Bernie have to turn on his bros? De Blasio endorses Sanders for president MORE and Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreClarence Thomas breaks his silence in theaters nationwide New Hampshire only exacerbates Democratic Party agita What Trump got right MORE respectively bear responsibility, of course, for those Democratic defeats — but they likely would have won had progressives rallied to them in sufficient numbers.

2020 now brings us to potentially the most consequential election of our time. Our long national nightmare will be prolonged an unthinkable four more years unless all wings of the party unite behind the Democratic nominee — unless, at least this once, pragmatism trumps purity.

James B. Foley is a retired career foreign service officer and was U.S. Ambassador to Haiti, 2003-2005, and to Croatia, 2009-2012. He coordinated Iraqi refugee issues for the State Department, was deputy commandant of the National War College and a deputy permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations in Geneva.