Mike Bloomberg Tried to Buy the Election. It Didn’t Work.
Super Tuesday’s results were disappointing, but there was one bright spot: Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million attempt to buy the election completely and utterly failed. Any time a billionaire enters the national stage and eats shit, we must cherish it.
The results of Super Tuesday were a setback for Bernie Sanders. After Bernie’s sweep of the first three primaries, the Democratic establishment finally consolidated around Joe Biden, who took the lead after Tuesday’s primaries and left Bernie with a more arduous, though still viable, path to victory.
But democracy did score at least one unmitigated victory on Tuesday: Mike Bloomberg ate shit and suspended his campaign today.
“Mini Mike” poured half a billion of his own dollars into campaign ads (more than Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s campaigns spent throughout the entirety of 2016). In addition to Mike’s $500 million, billionaire hedge-fund executive Tom Steyer spent another quarter billion himself and garnered exactly zero delegates throughout the primary process before dropping out on Saturday.
We should be heartened by this good news: billionaires could not buy this election, no matter how much of their ill-gotten gains they spent.
Bloomberg’s run depended on Joe Biden’s failure to consolidate the backing of a nervous Democratic establishment and secure his front-runner status. That dream failed on Tuesday when Biden finally did so. Lacking the support of the Democratic establishment and discovering that money can’t buy you love from the Democratic electorate left Bloomberg’s campaign for dead.
His final campaign decision to line up behind his “friend and great American” Joe Biden is its logical conclusion. After all, Bloomberg’s goal was always more about stopping Bernie than it was about defeating Trump. Now he’s got the memo that Biden is the guy.
Billionaires Shouldn’t Exist
Bernie Sanders has said that “billionaires shouldn’t exist.” And Mike Bloomberg is the personification of exactly why.
With a net worth of $62 billion, Bloomberg is the ninth richest man in the world. What it means for one man to have that much wealth is almost impossible to comprehend.
$62 billion is more than six times the wealth of all US presidents combined. It is greater than the wealth owned by the bottom 40 percent of the US population (made up of 132 million people). Bloomberg dropping half a billion dollars on a vanity campaign for president probably feels for him like what the rest of us feel when we buy ourselves an ice cream cone.
The barbarity of having that much money to throw around when half a million people sleep on the streets in this country and more than a million children don’t have regular access to food came home to roost in Flint, Michigan, last week. There, Mike Bloomberg complained, vandals left an “Eat the Rich” sign taped onto his campaign headquarters.
Rather than gain sympathy, his campaign’s tweets made #EatTheRich trend on Twitter and put a national spotlight back on Flint’s water crisis. Bloomberg, many Flint residents recalled, had spent $3 million in 2014 supporting Republican Rick Snyder’s gubernatorial campaign — the man who literally presided over the poisoning of Flint’s water supplies. And just a fraction of what Bloomberg spent on his own campaign ads over these last couple of months could have fixed Flint’s pipes.
But Bloomberg appeared content to run the most out of touch campaign in the history of presidential campaigns, thinking that people really like their bosses, and that they care about who cheats whom when rich people play golf. He thought he could wow us with the billions he’s made (with the help of criminal bankers). Bernie, meanwhile, dismantled his boasts at the Nevada Democratic debate: “You know what, Mr. Bloomberg, it wasn’t you who made all that money. Maybe your workers played some role in that.”
Bloomberg didn’t just make billions of dollars off other people’s labor. He did so while building a political career in which he opposed raising the minimum wage, brutally cracked down on Occupy Wall Street protestors, and touted the successes of trickle-down economics in one of the most economically polarized cities in the country.
As three-term mayor of New York City, he oversaw a dramatic increase of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, a campaign of racial terror aimed at the city’s black and Latino populations. Rather than drawing down stop-and-frisk because he discovered that it “got out of control” — as Bloomberg recently claimed in debates — Bloomberg has defended the stop-and-frisk policy during and after his tenure as mayor (renouncing it only a week before he announced his presidential campaign). The NYPD was forced to abandon it at the behest of court orders.
Black and Latino residents of New York were not the only groups terrorized under Bloomberg’s watch. Bloomberg also presided over the city’s indiscriminate surveillance program of Muslim communities. As Jeremy Scahill recently explained:
The NYPD identified 28 so-called “ancestries of interest” and mapped out associated neighborhoods, not just New York City, but also in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. With an almost exclusive focus on the Muslim population in these communities, the NYPD sent undercover officers, called “rakers,” to what they labeled “hot spots” like cafes, hookah bars, book stores, and restaurants. They recruited informants that they referred to as “mosque crawlers” to observe, document, and report on mosques throughout the region. They employed a strategy of “create and capture” in which informants were instructed to spark a conversation about a controversial topic like terrorism and then report the elicited response to the NYPD. The NYPD also stationed officers outside of mosques, taking pictures and videos of people coming and going, and they also tracked individuals.
Bloomberg’s massive influx of cash blanketed the country with his ads and quickly bought him a position among the top Democratic candidates. But the increasing spotlight on his propensity to sexually harass women (the problem was merely with the women “maybe not liking a joke I told”), defend racist policies (“I think we disproportionately stop whites too much, and minorities too little”), and buy elections and influence have not played well to the Democratic electorate. And his train-wreck debate performances exposed how thin support generated from ads can be. Bloomberg had just one job in both — to go after Bernie. He failed to make any attack stick.
In a healthy democracy, Bloomberg’s campaign for the Democratic nomination would only be considered a parody, and its self-funding would be illegal (or better yet, impossible, because someone like Bloomberg wouldn’t be allowed to get this rich). But we do not live in a healthy democracy.
The Moderates Will Still Lose
It’s easy to laugh off Bloomberg’s attempt to save the Democratic primary from Bernie now that it’s failed. But the reality is that the Democratic Party establishment was feverishly looking for a white knight like him.
Joe Biden had expected to be the preordained front-runner, with an easy path to the nomination. His case was built on his supposed electability, but this argument looked very shaky until his South Carolina win. Pete Buttigieg’s short moment in the sun proved underwhelming.
Instead of putting aside their egos and political careers sooner, the centrists were at one another’s throats, and the party’s mega-donors and DNC leaders continued to publicly fret over what to do for months. As political consultant Neal Kwatra told Politico: “Everybody has waited way too long to coalesce around some anti-Bernie effort and he has built a very formidable, mature movement that’s going to be very hard to dislodge.”
Big Democratic donors came to the conclusion that launching a unified super PAC to attack Bernie would likely backfire: “boosting Sanders and alienating those voters from the rest of the Democratic Party. It’s even possible that Sanders would raise more money off attacks against him than anti-Sanders donors were willing to spend in the first place,” argued Politico. Even the wishes of a large number of superdelegates to maneuver a win away from Bernie through a brokered convention seemed too craven to be a safe strategy.
Bloomberg’s campaign fit very neatly within the reality of the Democratic Party and their desperate attempt to stop Bernie. That it failed is a victory for democracy. Now the establishment is all in on Biden’s status-quo campaign. He would lose miserably to Donald Trump before getting the opportunity to leave the crises of climate change, health care, and racism untouched. It is up to Bernie’s supporters to fight for an alternative.