Fearing the Bern, Billionaire Bloomberg Threatens to Buy Election for Establishment

By Jon Queally, staff writer | ( Commondreams.org ) | – –

Former New York City mayor indicates willingness to spend “at least $1 billion”… especially if Sanders bumps Clinton.

Is the real establishment getting worried?

As news broke Saturday afternoon that billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is “seriously” considering the idea of a third-party run for president in 2016, some political observers immediately smelled a rat.

“Bloomberg hinting at a run is a cynical political threat aimed at Sanders supporters.” —Michael Brooks, media strategistThe New Yorks Times was the first to report that Bloomberg has asked his political team to draw up plans for what a campaign might look like. The Times cited sources close to the former mayor who said he is prepared to invest “at least $1 billion” of his own money in order to finance a run against the Republican and Democratic nominees that ultimately emerge.

As Jamelle Bouie, political writer at Slate, put it snidely: “Billionaire contemplates buying White House for himself.”

The Times reporting describes Bloomberg as “galled” by the dominance of Donald Trump in the GOP race and “troubled by Hillary Clinton’s stumbles and the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders” on the Democratic side.

According to one source, described as having intimate knowledge of the deliberations, Bloomberg has been thinking quietly about this for some time. However, the person is quoted as saying, “It’s gone from idle chit-chat, to ‘let’s take a real look.'”

A third-party independent has never won a presidential race in the United States, but as the Guardian notes, they have arguably made their impacts felt:

In 1912 former president Theodore Roosevelt ran a popular campaign but split the votes of progressives and Republicans, helping Democrat Woodrow Wilson to victory.

More recently, Texas businessman Ross Perot has been credited with helping Bill Clinton win the presidency in 1992, and Ralph Nader has been accused of siphoning off votes for Democrats and helping turn the 2000 election in Republican George Bush’s favor.

The Time‘s reporting discusses the possibility of a Sanders vs. Trump general election as perhaps the most likely scenario in which Bloomberg might considering mounting his campaign.

Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary under George W. Bush, was thrilled with the idea:

A Preemptive Strike Against a Surging Sanders?

“Mike Bloomberg for president rests on the not-impossible but somewhat unlikely circumstance of either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz versus Bernie Sanders,” former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell told the Times. Known widely as a faithful member of the Democratic Party’s establishment vanguard and described by the Times as “a close ally of Mrs. Clinton’s who is also a friend of Mr. Bloomberg,” Rendell said that “If Hillary wins the nomination, Hillary is mainstream enough that Mike would have no chance, and Mike’s not going to go on a suicide mission.”

However, Rendell added that if it was Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) facing off with Sanders, he might consider throwing his weight behind.

The implications of that suggestion, however, were not lost on astute political observers, especially supporters of Sanders, a candidate who has greatly surprised the Beltway and media establishment by mounting a serious campaign against Clinton. With the Iowa caucuses just over a week away—and with Sanders surging in both state-level and national polls—there has been a palpable sense of unease in the upper echelons of both the major parties about what should be done to dissuade voters from throwing their support behind “insurgent” candidates.

As political commentator and progressive media strategist Michael Brooks immediately noted on Twitter in response to Saturday’s news: “Bloomberg hinting at a run is a cynical political threat aimed at Sanders supporters.”

Meanwhile, Canadian journalist Derrick O’Keefe added:

And according to Matthew Rozsa, a political columnist and a Ph.D. student in history at Lehigh University, a run by Bloomberg would be a disaster, not just for his opponents, but for the nation at large:

A Bloomberg third-party campaign […] would be the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothes. Even his ideological message is an inversion of American norms; third-party candidates have, traditionally, represented ideas perceived as too extreme for the major parties. Bloomberg, on the other hand, would be a self-declared moderate denouncing the perceived extremism to his left and right from the major parties.

In short, if Bloomberg emerges as a viable third-party alternative in the 2016 presidential election, his candidacy will severely distort our collective understanding of the political world we inhabit today. There are real problems that need to be addressed – income inequality, racial and sexual discrimination, an entire generation cast adrift by an economy that seems to have no use for them – and they require a serious candidate who is willing to openly and aggressively confront them. In Bloomberg, we would have a champion of the status quo who presents himself as a bold game-changer. Frankly, if our next president needs to be an agent of the same, I’d at least prefer it that he present himself as such.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Via Commondreams.org

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

New York Daily News: “Michael Bloomberg Mulls Over a Third Party Run for President”

10 Responses

  1. Mister Bunny

    A few years ago, Bloomberg proudly showed off the wall sconces in his house, which cost $25,000 apiece. For a light fixture.

  2. As a veteran of third-party efforts (and one who could write a long article on how Nader wasted and shredded Green enthusiasm and practical organizing in the 1996-2004 era), I would like to raise the practical questions of a Bloomberg run, no matter who it may be aimed at.

    Most states have definite requirements for placing a third party/independent candidate on the ballot in November — and from what I remember, unless Bloomberg is _immediately_ ready and organized with cadres of lawyers, to be circulating petitions, and/or taking over existing third parties, he’s already missed the ballot deadlines on about 10 or more states, and if he doesn’t get on it with real resources by mid-March he’s lost at least 20 or more states. And a “write-in” campaign in the era of easily manipulated (by insiders) voting machines is a joke, that’s not gonna make it. What are the odds right now that Bloomberg can mount an a campaign on the ballot in 45 states? I say at least 3 or 4 to 1 against.

    • Remember, the implication of this article is that Bloomberg will run as a saboteur. He’d rather throw the election to the Republicans rather than let the Socialist win. But on the Republican side, it sounds like the same sentiment may be brewing against Trump. A Trump nomination means that the oligarchy can no longer ignore the racist/anti-market/populist (fascist?) sentiments of poorer Whites. They’d rather steal his nomination, let him run as a independent, and throw the race to Hillary than have their party redefined.
      We’re looking at a pretty amazing moment in US history. How long can it last?

      • Some have argued that the terms fascism and fascist have become hopelessly vague since the World War II period, and that today it is little more than a pejorative used by supporters of various political views to insult their opponents. The word fascist is sometimes used to denigrate people, institutions, or groups that would not describe themselves as ideologically fascist, and that may not fall within the formal definition of the word. As a political epithet, fascist has been used in an anti-authoritarian sense to emphasize the common ideology of governmental suppression of individual freedom. In this sense, the word fascist is intended to mean oppressive, intolerant, chauvinist, genocidal, dictatorial, racist, or aggressive. George Orwell wrote in 1944:

        • Okay, then come up with a definition that we can agree on, because no one has so far. I think Franklin Roosevelt’s definition of “takeover of government by private interests” is too broad. I also think it’s too broad to say any right-wing authoritarian movement is fascist.

          However, I do believe that there’s a fascist phenomenon, which begins with the usual betrayal of poorer conservatives by property-owning elites justified by market theology. Poorer conservatives, pretty much worldwide, don’t really get market doctrines; they see the proper order in feudalist terms in which they, as smaller property owners, have a protected position and privileges defined by patriarchy and tribalism/racism. They see the owner class as their tribal chiefs/overlords who must act in the tribe’s interests. The owners, of course, act to screw over everybody and drive all wages down to starvation levels.

          So this betrayal leads to the rise of right-wing populism, a critique of capitalism based NOT on equality, but on honoring a tradition of caste stratification. Intellectuals arise in these nations building ideologies of revenge & redemption for the offended class. In Italy & Spain it was based on Catholic nostalgia for feudalism (where the Church was a partner in the oligarchy). In Germany it became based on worship of the Army and by extension the (contradictory) warrior peoples of its past, the Teutonic knights and the pagan barbarians. Japan was even more purely an Army cult.

          But in all these countries, the bargain is that those males who fit the local roles of patriarch will have their status and wealth ensured/restored, and a nostalgic hierarchy imposed on all the Others. The capitalists embrace the movement because labor unions will be emasculated and profits guaranteed. The, shall we say “redneck” class, farmers and those forced to move to cities due to concentration of wealth, will become official enforcers of the new order, starting with their own wives & children (very important). But it’s again the capitalists who benefit from the cost savings of this unpaid enforcer class.

          All this still doesn’t get us all the way to fascism, because it largely describes the Jim Crow South and much of Latin America and Asia. The thing about fascism is that its ideologues want their nostalgic order to be “natural” and organic, but they whine that modern ideologies have contaminated the people so that continuity has been lost. Thus some savior figure is needed, to whom the classes surrender their conflicting political positions so he can decree that restoration by brute force – the “Fuhrer Principle”. This is the alarming tendency in right-wing populism that has led to the precautionary attitude enshrined in Western liberal societies as “Never Again,” the drawing of historical analogies to Hitler. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable precaution. But if the Fuhrer figure hasn’t arrived yet, it’s hard for normal citizens to be alarmed. The personality cult is what triggers our alarm, not the complexities of the preceding reactionary ideology.

          So people like me spend decades warning about the patient, grassroots-based anti-democratic factions of the Christian Right and capitalist neo-feudalists, and most normals ignore us because it’s so hard for us to prove intent. But then Trump appears and millions of far-right bigots shed the burden of supporting the doctrines that the Koches and evangelicals and neocons devised to slowly lure America back into its oppressive past, in a blind hope that Il Douche will decree overnight the rather simple agenda that rednecks always wanted: their right to bully women, gays, non-Whites, non-Christians, etc. with guns or beatings or job discrimination until those groups form a permanent bottom caste. Above them the rednecks will be guaranteed jobs and status even if by non-market means. Now you could say that Trump is too incompetent to carry out the overthrow of the legal system that fascism (and Trump’s own un-Constitutional promises) demands. But surely there is room in our definition for an incompetent fascist?

  3. “Bloomberg, on the other hand, would be a self-declared moderate denouncing the perceived extremism to his left and right from the major parties.”

    Sanders extreme … hahahahaha … he’s not even speaking out against the barbarism of Israel.

    • Welcome to the strange world of the shifting Overton Window.

      It’s easy for someone like me to view America as having shifted far to the Right because I focus on wealth distribution and treatment of minorities. This is based on a long history of viewing Left-Right through the lens of capitalism and racist imperialism. But low-info bigots, meaning half of America, reject the label of racist because they claim to be willing to share power with “good” Negroes like Ben Carson – it’s just too bad that “actual” Blacks aren’t anything like him. And they have ZERO understanding of how unfair labor markets and wealth polarization are because their eyes glaze over when you show them charts. Pile on top of that the success of the gay rights movement and the growth of non-Christian populations, and they see that as signs that America has moved far to the Left, because the growth of capitalist injustice and inequality was never how they defined the political spectrum. To them Left-Right means “acting alien” vs “acting White” in the tiny world that they see through a sensationalist corporate media. To them, “acting alien” must be (a) a vast conspiracy and therefore political, and (b) the cause of all their personal difficulties.

      I suspect a lot of these people in fact supported unions and Social Security and other redistributive measures in their youths – but only because they supported them as tribal loyalty to fellow Whites. Just as Scandinavians fell out of love with their welfare state when they had to share it with immigrants.

  4. re: third party elections. look up current maine gubernatorial
    disaster…..beware what can happen….

  5. If memory serves us all, bloomberg bought his against the law third term! So, we’re going to send yet more of our money to Sen. Sanders, and they just don’t get how a democracy is really supposed to work, and be run by US!

  6. Rendell: “If Hillary wins the nomination, Hillary is mainstream enough that Mike would have no chance, and Mike’s not going to go on a suicide mission.”

    Excuse me?

    Rendell appears to be suffering from the tunnel-vision of the “establishment vanguard”.

    Sure, Hillary is regarded as “mainstream” by that “establishment”, but it appears to have eluded the likes of Bloomberg and Rendell that the voter popln knows exactly whose interests Hillary serves (hint: not theirs).

    That’s why the voters don’t want her i.e. the very fact that she is “mainstream” w.r.t. “the establishment” is now anathema to the 99% of the USA who don’t belong in that exalted company.

    If it does come down to Trump versus Sanders it will be because they will have convinced the voters that they are the only two candidates who aren’t 100% owned by the 1%ers.

    Don’t get me wrong: they may be monumentally flawed in other ways. Probably are.

    But if they can convince the US voters that they aren’t puppets of the Deep State then the voters will at least consider them.

    Unlike Hillary. She is so deep inside the Deep State that there is no way for her to dig herself out.

    But consider what that means for a Bloomberg candidacy.

    If it gets to “Sure I’m A Billionaire, But A Crazy One!” versus “I’m A Cuddly Old Socialist!” then where is Bloomberg going to find his place?

    He will have to enter that contest on the “I Represent The Rich And Powerful!” ticket.

    Good luck with running on that platform, Michael.

    There is a real whiff of the Marie Antoinette’s about the “establishment” in the USA.

    They appear to think that nobody has noticed that their greed is insatiable, or that Washington DC is their bitch.

    Both Sanders and Trump have already sniffed the wind of change, which is precisely why:
    a) They are doing so well, and why
    b) Hillary, Rendell and Bloomberg are utterly mystified about what is happening around them.

    Dudes, stop kidding yourselves: to be “establishment mainstream” is the kiss of death in this current climate.

    Bloomberg may as well run on this platform: Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!

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