The Week - February 18, 2020

"And for all the people who complain that Bernie Sanders is not a real Democrat, Bloomberg was literally a Republican up until 2007, and worked to elect Republicansuntil very recently. In 2014, he or his political action committee donated to the senate campaigns of Susan Collins in Maine and Bob Dold in Illinois. In 2016, hedonated $11.7 millionto Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — making it the most expensive Senate race in history up to that point, and likely securing victory for Toomey, who won by less than two points. Though he has also donated a lot to Democrats,Bloomberg is a guy who did more than almost anyone to help protect Mitch McConnell's Republican majority in the Senate, and hence to put two more conservatives on the Supreme Court."

... As I have written on many occasions, I think Bernie Sanders is the best candidate. But given the abominable Trump presidency, I have also said that I'll vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination.

However, that was before Mike Bloomberg became a serious presidential contender (currently in third place in national polls and rising fast). I have given it very serious thought, and while I would happily vote for Elizabeth Warren, grudgingly vote for Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar, or secure an entire bottle of Southern Comfort to get sufficiently hammered to vote for Pete Buttigieg, I will not vote for Mike Bloomberg in November if he is nominated.

To start with, it is not at all obvious that Bloomberg would even be a better president than Trump. As Alex Pareene writes atThe New Republic, he is a right-wing authoritarian with nakedly racist views who constantly violated civil rights laws during his time as mayor of New York City. He locked up thousands of protesters during the 2004 Republican National Convention (where he gave a speech warmly endorsing George W. Bush, and thanked him for starting the war in Iraq), and a judge held the city in contempt for violating due process law. He created what amounted to a police state for New York Muslims, subjecting the entire community to dragnet surveillance and harassment, and filling mosques with spies and agent provocateurs. The city had to pay millions in settlements for violating Muslims' civil rights. (All this did precisely nothing to prevent terrorism, by the way.)

As Nathan Robinson writes atCurrent Affairs, he drastically escalated the infamous "stop-and-frisk" program in New York, in which innocent black and brown youths were jacked up by cops literally millions of times. Ninety-nine percent of the stops found nothing, and many police used it as a handy pretext to vent their racist prejudice. At its peak in 2011, there were more stops of black men than there were black men in the entire city. And because it was mainly young men being targeted, some were stopped dozens of times. Innocent people were routinely beaten senseless.

Bloomberg justified the policy with straightforwardly racist collective guilt. In a 2015 speech, he said "it's controversial, but first thing is, all of your — 95 percent of your murders, murderers and murder victims, fit one M.O. ... They are male minorities, 15 to 25."

These statistics are hideously inaccurate. In reality, the relatively few whites stopped under stop-and-frisk were morelikely to be carrying weapons, and as The Atlantic's Adam Serwer points out, after the program was halted, crime continued to fall unabated. The whole thing was completely useless — unless the point was to constantly remind black and brown New Yorkers that they were second-class citizens. Bloomberg also espouses the racist theory that the financial crisis was caused by government efforts to reduce prejudice in home lending — thus scapegoating minorities to deflect blame from the real culprit, Wall Street oligarchs like himself.

Bloomberg's newfound commitment to progressive policies is so transparently fraudulent that his campaign apparently plagiarized huge chunks of his campaign platform. He is just trying to trick the Democratic electorate with a tidal wave of cash (with evident success).

Now, Bloomberg does have a legitimate history of supporting gun control and climate policy. But it is exceedingly unlikely that he will be able to get past a Senate filibuster on gun control, especially given his sneering know-it-all approach. And given his politics and personal wealth, his climate policy would probably look a great deal like Emmanuel Macron's diesel tax in France — a carbon tax whose revenues would go towards cutting taxes on the rich. Macron's move sparked violent protests and was quickly abandoned.

Does this sound like a guy who would do anything substantial to reverse Trump's worst policies? If we're lucky, he might reverse the Muslim ban and let a few people out of the CBP camps. If we're not, he'll implement a much quieter and more effective version of the same policies, and partisan Democrats will reverse-engineer justifications for these being somehow necessary (or just ignore them, as they did during the Obama years). Recall that Bloomberg once argued that every Social Security card should have fingerprints so unauthorized immigrants would be unable to get jobs.

On the other hand, in some areas Bloomberg would likely be worse than Trump. As Mehdi Hasan writes atThe Intercept, Bloomberg is a committed and pitiless warmonger — he supported the war in Iraq and repeated the Bush administration's lie that Saddam Hussein had plotted 9/11. (In January he said he had no regrets about doing so.) He opposed President Obama's Iran deal, and had few complaints about Trump's assassination of Iran's Qassem Soleimani. While Trump has escalated conflicts across the globe, he appears to have at least a mild hesitation about starting new full-scale wars of aggression. The chances of a shooting war with Iran probably increase if Bloomberg wins in 2020. ...
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