Former NYC Mayor Bloomberg considering an independent bid for the White House
To nobody’s surprise, and for the third election cycle in a row, New York City’s 108th mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has flirted publicly with the possibility of entering the race for the presidency. The once Democratic, once Republican business magnate says that he is looking into an independent run in the 2016 general election. But unlike past years, he has gone further than merely speculating; according to the New York Times, Bloomberg instructed advisers to draw up plans for a campaign, stating that he would be willing to spend at least $1 billion of his own fortune.
The possibility of a rich, career politician sauntering into the ring is somewhat jarring. This race has been dominated by the successes of unconventional candidates. Following the grassroots fundraising of the Bernie Sanders campaign, to the popularity of political outsiders like Donald Trump and Ben Carson, a run by Bloomberg seems almost too easy. It’s a tribute to how much our democratic process is tied to whether or not you have money. Sanders put in months of campaigning to Americans across the country to earn his position as a frontrunner, and yet if Bloomberg enters the race, he will already have the advantage in financial resources.
Whether or not Bloomberg enters the race at all is very much dependent on if Sanders or Hillary Clinton get the Democratic nomination. According to his advisers, Trump’s domination of the Republican candidates and Sanders’ close race with Bloomberg’s former ally, Clinton, has prompted his deliberation about the run. Viewing himself as a somewhat left-of-center compromise candidate, he clearly sees an opening between the boisterous and unreliable Trump campaign and the democratic socialist platform that Sanders has professed. However, a bid on his part would be less of a standout performance than he seems to believe. His policy changes and voting habits have become quite similar to that of President Obama’s—or Clinton’s, for that matter—since becoming an independent in 2007. In fact, Senate Democrats have warned that not only does Bloomberg have almost zero chance of winning the election, but that an independent campaign would surely split the Democratic vote and result in a Republican winning the presidency.
It’s a tribute to how much our democratic process is tied to whether or not you have money.
None of this is to say that Bloomberg himself would not be a decent candidate. He can demonstrate a business acumen to match Trump’s through his own successes as founder, CEO, and owner of Bloomberg L.P., his global financial data, and media company. But unlike Trump, who has been criticized for his lack of philanthropy, Bloomberg has established his own foundation and has pledged to donate the majority of his wealth, an estimated $27 billion, to charitable causes. His position as a moderate candidate could also be considered an asset. As Doug Shoen, Bloomberg’s pollster of 16 years, argues, there is close to 60 percent support for an independent candidate to run—a record level.
Despite this encouraging statistic, most still believe that there is a slim chance of success for Bloomberg should he decide to run. A large part of the cynicism is due to the fact that no candidate has won the presidency without the backing of a major political party since George Washington. This is the reality of a two-party system.
The polarization that Bloomberg despises in the primaries is a natural result of candidates vying to fit one specific brand, one particular type of model candidate. The name of the game is to show your party that you are the most dedicated to their values and concerns. This becomes extreme because the only way to prove your excellence in a field of qualified candidates is to continue to make more promises and take more steps to the far end of your political ideology. Increasingly, it seems there is no place for a moderate candidate in the primaries. This was especially clear in this election’s Republican race, but even with the Democrats, it was Sanders’ willingness to push Democratic party boundaries that caused his rise in media and public attention.
There is close to 60 percent support for an independent candidate to run—a record level.
What this means for Bloomberg and his dream of being the ideal, unifying candidate is that, by sacrificing the party-pandering process, he has effectively refused to show solidarity with either of the parties with which so many Americans identify. Though his policies may be preferable to some, his lack of association makes him a wild card candidate. By undermining the normal process and entering at a late stage, Bloomberg simply doesn’t have the time to create a niche for himself in the race; a bid by him would most likely result in a loss for the democrats.