American elections are devolving into a tournament of oligarchs. The President of the United States is a billionaire businessman from Manhattan, and a current Democratic presidential contender is also a billionaire businessman from Manhattan. Bloomberg, who officially entered the race Nov. 24, 2019 — less than three months before the first primary voting would occur — has successfully employed his vast sums of personal wealth to become one of the top Democratic bids for president.
Though supposedly running from opposing political parties, Bloomberg and Trump are unified by their great personal wealth. In response to Trump dubbing Bloomberg as “Mini Mike,” Bloomberg quipped back that they “know many of the same people in NY,” and that those people call the President a “carnival barking clown.” Underneath these playground insults is something much more troubling: the circle of egregiously wealthy aristocratic New Yorkers is so small that Bloomberg and Trump run in the same clique, and that same minute group produced two presidential contenders.
Despite being a Democrat for “most of his life,” Bloomberg switched to the Republican Party in 2001 in order to get elected mayor of NYC. When he abandoned the GOP six years later, he registered as an independent, but still maintained Republican support during his third mayoral term. Bloomberg registered back as a Democrat shortly before his presidential bid. It’s painfully clear that no matter what label Bloomberg dons, his only true allegiance is to the elites. His policies, time and time again, drip with Trumpian power-grabbing and hatred of the poor.
Bloomberg successfully fought to extend NYC’s previous two-term limit for elected officials in 2008, prolonging his tenure by another four years. Similarly, Trump has expressed sentiments suggesting prolonging his reign beyond the constitutional limit. As mayor, Bloomberg implemented a series of policies that would no longer give priority access to public housing for the homeless, causing poor families to remain “stuck in a shelter system with fewer access,” left “languishing longer than ever.” He’s argued in favor of putting higher taxes on the poor in hopes of eliciting better behavior. During the 2008 economic recession, Bloomberg notably blamed the elimination of the discriminatory housing practice redlining as the cause of the crisis. Not only was his description of redlining completely whitewashed, it also pinned the extreme economic downturn on low-income people rather than predatory lenders.
With a touted net worth of $65 billion, Bloomberg was able to catapult himself into the position of Democratic frontrunner after his campaign spent $409 million on a media blitz — blowing past the $338.3 million Obama spent on his entire 2012 campaign. Fellow billionaire Tom Steyer has only spent $106 million on his campaign, despite entering the race earlier. This lavish spending in lieu of attempting to gather mass support makes a mockery out of democracy. Unlike other candidates in the race, Bloomberg doesn’t need fundraising or donations — a proxy for public support — to remain a top contender for the presidential bid.
Furthermore, the way Bloomberg can weaponize his vast personal wealth to manipulate other political actors is disgusting. Bloomberg was able to buy the support of influential pastor Rev. Calvin O. Butts III. Despite Butts rightfully taking issue with Bloomberg’s racist stop-and-frisk policies, Bloomberg’s $1 million donation toward Butts’ church bought his endorsement. Bloomberg has received endorsements from other influential figures, such as Congressmen Mikie Sherrill, Haley Stevens and Harley Rouda. Notably, all these representatives have each received multi-million donations to their respective campaigns from Bloomberg. His laughable attempt to appeal to the youth through popular Instagram accounts was yet another show of his exuberant wealth — Bloomberg offered $150 a pop to get social media influencers to say nice things about him. Even Bloomberg’s power-grabbing move for a third term was the result of him dipping into his vast personal wealth to purchase the bill’s support.
The wealthy already have an intrinsic, unseemly advantage in our political system. Unlike other nations, America is unable to restrict campaign spending as long as Citizens United v. FEC remains the law of the land. The infamous case overturned restrictions on independent expenditures, which unleashed an unprecedented amount of money in politics. While it is unlikely with this politically paranoid court that Citizens United will be overturned anytime soon, in the meantime it’s crucial for the Democratic party to denounce this oligarch. The legitimization of exuberant personal wealth as a campaign strategy through a Bloomberg nomination would be an arguably unprecedented, symbolic departure away from a country ruled by the people in favor of a country that is undeniably run by oligarchs. Though Democrats will strive to do anything to prevent another Trump presidency, their secondary goal needs to be preventing a Bloomberg one.
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