A while back (on August 27 to be exact) our friends over at the American Conservative asked an interesting question: Who is the left-wing equivalent of Donald Trump? In other words, who is the populist billionaire celebrity that could turn the Democratic Party upside down much as the Donald has disrupted the GOP?
I did a little thinking about this, and the obvious answer both surprised and utterly disturbed me: former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. The answer is rather surprising because Bloomberg is a nominal Republican and disturbing because of Mr. Bloomberg’s track record.
Bloomberg does have some similarities to the Donald: Both are New Yorkers and billionaire entrepreneurs. Yet there are some differences: Bloomberg is a spectacularly successful businessman; he’s the eighth richest man in America, according to Forbes—possessing a $37.2 billion fortune. Bloomberg built a very profitable media empire from scratch, and he has never suffered the kind of losses that Trump has. Trump has lost a lot of money in some businesses, including casinos. He’s currently worth around $4 billion—a large percentage of which he inherited from his dad.
Bloomberg Is the Real Deal; Trump Is Not
Bloomberg also has a very successful track record as a politician. He served three terms as mayor of New York, meaning that he won three real elections. He’s a genuinely successful politician and a very serious guy who gets real respect from the media, unlike the Donald.
What’s truly interesting is that Bloomberg is also doing the hard work and spending the money necessary to build a national political movement. He’s started an organization called Everytown for Gun Safety that has been financing websites and lobbying for legislation around the country. Bloomberg is quietly building up a nationwide political network under the guise of gun control.
Bloomberg has also started campaigning on other key liberal issues, including climate change. In other words, he’s acting like a presidential candidate even though he is not openly running. Most likely, Bloomberg does not want to offend all the liberals that like Hillary Clinton. Yet he has positioned himself to jump into the race quickly if Hillary falters or drops out. If Hillary sticks in, Bloomberg has positioned himself as a serious contender for 2020 if he wants.
Unlike Trump, Bloomberg would be a serious contender because he’s had real experience in office. He’s won elections, he has a lot of money, and he has real business experience. More importantly, Bloomberg has a lot of influence in the media, possibly because he signs a lot of journalists’ paychecks.
Bloomberg is also a master at pushing all the buttons needed to win liberal votes. In particular, he can take conservative stands on issues and yet get the lefties to vote for him.
The Dark Side of Michael Bloomberg
Mr. Bloomberg has something else in common with Donald Trump: He has a very dark side. Like Trump, Bloomberg is something of a racist; in fact, Bloomberg is the most openly racist major political figure in the United States today.
Bloomberg is shrewd enough not to talk about his racism, but it occasionally comes out, most noticeably on February 6, 2013, when Bloomberg told a crowd at the liberal Aspen Institute that guns had to be kept out of the hands of young black and Hispanic men to keep them alive. Bloomberg did not say what he meant by that—does he view people of a certain heritage as too violent or stupid to possess guns?
What’s truly disturbing, though, is that Bloomberg practices what he preaches; he vocally and aggressively defended the New York Police Department’s notorious Stop and Frisk program. Under Stop and Frisk, officers simply stopped all young black and Hispanic males on the street and searched them for guns even though there was no suspicion of a crime and no warrant. Around nine out of 10 of the people stopped were completely innocent of any crime.
The practice is obviously racist; in 2011 African Americans and Latinos made up 52.6% of New York’s population but 85% of those stopped and frisked, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU. Yet Bloomberg claimed no racial profiling was involved. He even vetoed bills before New York’s City Council that would have banned the odious practices. Fortunately, his veto was overridden.
On August 13, 2013, U.S. district judge Shira Scheindlin found that Stop and Frisk was racist in a case called Floyd et al. v. City of New York. Reacting to a city council statement, Bloomberg said nobody racially profiles. Judge Scheindlin also found that Stop and Frisk violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If Stop and Frisk is not racist, what is it, and why is Bloomberg defending it so vigorously? Even if it is not racist: Stop and Frisk is blatantly unconstitutional—something that does not seem to trouble Bloomberg at all. The support for Stop and Frisk indicates that the man has absolutely no respect for the Constitution or the basic values upon which America is based upon: the values for which generations of our ancestors fought and died.
Is Bloomberg’s gun control agenda about keeping the streets safe or keeping weapons out of the hands of the wrong people? Either way, Bloomberg seems to have a very cavalier attitude towards basic rights and no real respect for the law. For example, he seems to think that the Fourth Amendment, which bans unreasonable search and seizures, should be ignored or repealed.
Bloomberg the Fascist
Like Donald Trump, Bloomberg seems to promote a sort of watered down fascism as his political agenda. The disturbing thing about Bloomberg is that he has a track record of actually putting racist and authoritarian policies that trample the rights of average Americans into practice.
For all his bluster, there is no evidence that Donald Trump has done anything against immigrants or Hispanics nor is there any indication that Trump believes what he is saying. Bloomberg practices what he preaches. As president, he would undoubtedly try to implement some of his racist and authoritarian policies nationwide.
Remember, the president has the power to do a great deal of damage, particularly in times of national emergency. A classic example of this was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 during World War II, which effectively stripped Japanese Americans of their rights as U.S. citizens and forced them into what FDR himself admitted were concentration camps. It is not hard to imagine a racist with no respect for the Constitution or basic human rights, like Bloomberg, behaving like a modern-day FDR.
The truly disturbing thing about Bloomberg is that his brand of authoritarianism, disguised as “law and order,” has popular appeal. Bloomberg knows how to sugarcoat his anti-rights policies and hide behind code words in a way Trump cannot.
Worse, he is a master of playing on popular fears and stoking racial and class prejudices in a sophisticated way. Bloomberg’s gun control crusade can be viewed as an ugly mix of racial, class, and even regional hysterias disguised as a fight for law and order. His campaign appeals to mostly white suburban, middle-class women that are afraid of blacks, the working class, Hispanics, and Southerners with guns.
The rallying cry is one worthy of George Wallace: “The white middle class is under assault by violent degenerates. We have to rally around our police and give them unconditional support and unlimited authority to control those dangerous people who should be stripped of all their rights. Only a tough militarized police force that is unrestrained by the Constitution can defend us from us the legions of drug crazed blacks, bloodthirsty Latinos, murderous Muslims and gun-toting rednecks.”
Is Gun Control Really Class Warfare?
Such a political program could be very popular, especially in a nation with growing income inequality and a very real possibility of class warfare. Americans tend to forget it, but police repression can be seen as a kind of class warfare, forcing minorities and the poor to adopt middle-class values whether they want them or not.
In a similar strategy of tyranny, police power can also be abused to implement official racism. Bloomberg’s Stop and Frisk can even be viewed as a kind of class and ethnic cleansing using the police to push the poor and minorities out of New York. The not so subtle message sent to the young men who were stopped and frisked was: “Get on the train and go back to New Jersey where you belong.”
At the end of the day, Donald Trump does not scare me; he’s too much of a buffoon to get elected to any office, but Michael Bloomberg does. Bloomberg has the intelligence, the maturity, the savvy, the experience, and the money to run a serious national campaign if he wants.
Worse, he’s demonstrated that he will use the power of government to trample the rights of average Americans to achieve his goals. The power and influence that such a man is gathering in these uncertain times should scare us to death.