Why the 2020 winning ticket includes Michael Bloomberg

Why the 2020 winning ticket includes Michael Bloomberg
© Getty Images

Now that the impeachment trial has run its course, it is time to reassess the field of Democratic candidates. The big recent development has not been shifting leads in Iowa, a state quite unrepresentative of the general electorate. Rather, it has been the rise of Michael BloombergMichael BloombergDemocrats are sleepwalking towards electoral disaster in 2022 Budowsky: 10 million should march on DC, for earth and democracy Bloomberg vows to spend 0M to fight fatal drug overdoses MORE. Nationally, he is now polling ahead of Pete Buttigieg. There is a good reason for this. None of the “leading candidates” can actually give Democrats what they want most, which is a decisive victory against Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Giving thanks for Thanksgiving itself Immigration provision in Democrats' reconciliation bill makes no sense MORE this fall.

Most Democratic voters are in no mood to take risks. Many do believe the president to be an existential threat to the nation and even the world. The task at hand is to pick the candidate best positioned to win. We can argue about policy after the election. The winning ticket is Michael Bloomberg and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season CIA director says there will be consequences if Russia is behind 'Havana Syndrome' attacks Biden, Harris volunteer at DC nonprofit before Thanksgiving MORE. This is not a judgment about who would be the best president. It is only about who is best positioned to prevail in the election. I reached this conclusion by a process of elimination, focusing on which candidate can best withstand what will be an awful general campaign.

First, Democrats should hesitate to lead with any candidate who voted to impeach. That does not mean that the candidates in the Senate should have voted to vote for acquittal. But politics has dealt them a harsh hand. Impeachment will be the issue around which Trump solidifies his base. It may have the same sort of appeal that “getting Brexit done” had to swing voters in Britain. The Democrats took a gamble, and it may not play well for them. It is best to defuse by picking someone not directly involved.


Second, we have no strong reason to think the candidates on the left, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, can win. The British Labour Party could not win with its leader Jeremy Corbyn, and America is even more conservative than Britain. Democrats worry about the policy differences among candidates too much. Even if a Democrat wins, things will have to be negotiated with far less progressive constituencies. The actual space for progressive change is likely to be too minimal to risk the race on it.

Third, Joe Biden is too risky. One certainly has to worry not just about his senior moments but also about the relentless attacks on him and his son Hunter Biden for their involvement and business in Ukraine. That is not fair, but politics is not about fair. We do not get to set the limits on the claims of our opponents, even if they are false and morally offensive.

Fourth, Buttigieg remains untested. We do not know whether the country is prepared to vote for a gay president. I hope that it is, but this is not the time to test the proposition, especially with a candidate who is the mayor of a small city and has barely passed the age limit. Buttigieg has a long future among Democrats, but this election is just not the next step in it.

That eliminates the front runners. Bloomberg is much stronger than the rest of the pack. He has the right platforms on gun control and climate change for a campaign in which suburban women voters will be critical. Universal health care may be suicidal in the general election. It is unlikely to get through the Senate in any case. He also has the wealth to campaign without limits. He is a real New York billionaire against a pretender, and I suspect that some voters may get a certain thrill out of that match up.

Bloomberg has the name recognition and the network. Not for nothing has he been supporting progressive causes around the nation for many years. Of course, he is older than he should be. He is also from New York instead of the Midwest. He is also a white Jewish male. He is not a great candidate. But he is the best positioned to win against those running.

The candidate should be chosen to win the necessary votes in the swing states. The running mate should be chosen to respond to the traditional constituencies of the party. The ticket must acknowledge the importance of women and minorities. The likely choice then will be Kamala Harris or Stacey Abrams. A campaign that criticizes either of them will no doubt be seen as racist and sexist. Harris has one very big advantage in blunting those attacks in that she already occupies national office as a senator.

The vice president may have to become president, especially when the candidate is older. Harris can do that in the eyes of the nation. Much like Buttigieg, Abrams represents the future, but primary voters in this cycle should stay clear of any unnecessary risks. Bloomberg and Harris is the winning ticket. Unfortunately, I have more confidence that it would win the general election than I have that it would win the party nomination.

Paul Kahn is the Robert Winner professor of law and humanities and is the director of the Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School.