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Feb 17

Michael Bloomberg’s Unconsidered Assumptions

Michael BloombergDavid Dayen wrote what turned out to be an amusing article over at New Republic, Michael Bloomberg’s Target Voter: Himself. It is about his grumbling that the people are tired of the extremism of the two parties and what they really want is a “moderate” like himself.

Obviously, coming from a billionaire, this is the basis of high comedy. Michael Bloomberg reminds me of Malvolio in Twelfth Night smiling and dressing like a clown. It also reminds me of a story I had read told by an ex-slave about his master doing target practice in preparation for the Civil War. Those with great power are most prone to make huge fools of themselves because they have no one to keep them in check.

Dayen described the true situation:

An anti-teachers’-union, anti-gun, pro-nanny state, pro-Wall Street, pro-stop-and-frisk, pro-inequality, pro-immigration, pro-surveillance, pro-Iraq War neoconservative is almost surgically designed to repel practically every American voter on some level.

But even if you got rid of his gun and immigration policy preferences, conservative voters would still hate him. But this is all part of a larger issue about the class of people that Michael Bloomberg represents. They really do think they are in the “sweet spot” of American politics. They see gun right absolutists — people who think they should be allowed to carry machine guns into banks — as just the other extreme of people who think that the minimum wage ought to at least keep up with inflation.

Here’s the thing: if Michael Bloomberg ran for president, I’d be surprised if he got one percent of the vote. But he would get huge media attention because the elite media share his blind spots.

This is why I’ve long been against the New Democrats. The movement was all about keeping socially liberal policy, but basically accepting conservative policy on economics. (The net result was to push the Republicans to the extreme right on economic policy and create a new “left of center” economics that is decidedly right of center.) And this is what I like most about Bernie Sanders: he’s willing to say what establishment Democrats have been unwilling to say for 25 years, “Neoliberalism doesn’t work.”

But as Dayen noted, there are a lot of people in the New York and DC areas who just love what Bloomberg has to say. To someone like William Saletan, what Bloomberg stands for is not just his opinion — it is The Truth™. It is self-evident to this crowd that the society is working just great. All it needs are a few tweaks: get people to drink less soda, get rid of unions all together, and everything will be fine!

The truth is that the Michael Bloomberg crowd doesn’t see their pro-Wall Street opinions as opinions. It is unthinkable to them that we could have a system that works differently than the one that I am more than willing to admit works for them. It’s bad enough when people just go about their lives without examining their assumptions. But when we are talking about the most powerful people in the country, we have a real problem.

Here’s the thing: if Michael Bloomberg ran for president, I’d be surprised if he got one percent of the vote. But he would get huge media attention because the elite media share his blind spots. I think Dayen was wrong in one thing he wrote. He noted Bloomberg’s “sycophantic advisers.” But the problem is so much deeper than that. Thomas Friedman isn’t paid to be Bloomberg’s yes-man. Thomas Friedman has the exact same unconsidered assumptions. And he’s not alone.

As ignorant as the people may be, they are far better at choosing a president than these jokers.

8 comments

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  1. Barney

    Against that, he did win the election for mayor in New York City 3 times, and hasn’t lost an election, as far as I can tell, so we know there are real voters who like him for an executive post. He’s much more of a ‘self-made’ man than Trump is, and that might attract a few. And I think most of us outside the USA would see him as a less dangerous presidential pick than George W. Bush, let alone Cruz or Trump (Rubio I’d class about the same as Dubya, for world affairs – the Puppet for a New American Century).

    I’d be amazed if he did win, because he’s switched between parties. But this is not the same as any old rich hedge fund manager deciding to run.

    1. James Fillmore

      Someone (I think Kevin Drum, although I’ve been annoyed by him of late) made the point that Trump is actually rather like Reagan on foreign policy — so much bluster, that, Reagan never had to actually DO much. Just invade Grenada now and again, that was victory enough. (This naturally ignores all the horrid crimes Reagan perpetrated in Central America, yet, minus a brief American public love of Ollie North, few in America knew of these atrocities.) Grenada, Libya, “tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” that’s what Americans cared about.)

      So there’s historical precedent for a Trump/Reagan’s ridiculous machismo not doing much of anything worse than any other American president on foreign policy, and less afwful than some.

      As for a “self-made man,” were there actually such a person, I’d be terrified of him. Yet we can agree to disagree!

    2. Frank Moraes

      He almost lost the third time. And that’s NYC. The main thing is that there just isn’t this centrist voter looking for a social liberal and economic conservative. There is the opposite: a centrist voter looking for a social conservative and an economic liberal. But no billionaire is going to be running on that platform. It’s simple: capitalism been bery bery good, to them! And they think it is because they are so great. The logic is simple. They did great under capitalism, therefore, capitalism must reward the worthy.

      The truth is that Bloomberg appeals to people who find Clinton appealing. All he offers are much less appealing policies and far less charisma.

  2. Elizabeth

    The biggest problem with the claims regarding economics is that so few candidates win with talking about liberal economic policies even though voters like it when they are put into place.

    I don’t know what the solution is though.

    1. Frank Moraes

      Yeah. I don’t understand what this is all about. I’m still trying to figure out why the populace turns conservatives when we get a liberal president and vice verrsa. It’s like there’s something contrary about the electorate — or at least the people in the center of it. They just want whatever they don’t have. It strikes me as immature.

      1. Elizabeth

        Probably because this is a nation founded on being contrary? I don’t know. I don’t know why voters don’t vote in the numbers they need to for their preferred policies to be enacted. And as a candidate, that is super frustrating.

        1. Frank Moraes

          I think people think their votes don’t matter. And I don’t mean in the sense of, “I’m just one of thousands!” When I ran a chapter of the Society of Physics Students, I was hugely successful in putting together events. The reason was because I begged. Everyone knew that there was at least one person who really cared that they were there. Obviously, that doesn’t scale past about 50 people. But it is the reason that if you vote consistently, it’s likely most of the people you know do too. I grew up in a house in which the idea that you wouldn’t vote was outrageous. I was taught to vote as surely as I was taught to say please and thank you. (And I am ridiculously consistent in saying please and thank you.)

          1. Elizabeth

            Huh-in my family voting wasn’t considered something to care about. We didn’t even discuss political events of the day much. Granted my mother’s side of the family was “if you do vote, you better vote Democratic since we are 100% union” but it was not something pushed.

            I am willing to blame the distractions we have of the thousand and one other things to do with our time then vote. It is a low reward, high effort activity and it never seems to change until it suddenly does like a bankruptcy.

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