Yesterday, it was announced that Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City and former Republican-turned-Independent-turned Democrat, would be filing for a run for president of the United States. Bloomberg has toyed with a presidential bid in the past, but decided not to pursue such a run at the time. According to his camp, he has officially changed his mind.
For everyone leaping for joy at the prospect of the former mayor entering the ring, I’d like to offer a few words of caution. Michael Bloomberg was a three-time mayor of New York City. In October of 2008, as his second term was ending — New York City had, at the time, a city limit of two terms — he sought to extend the mayoral term, arguing that he was best suited to address the massive financial crisis that faced the city.
“Handling this financial crisis while strengthening essential services,” he said, “is a challenge I want to take on.”
The board approved the measure, and Bloomberg was re-elected.
Some may argue that Bloomberg, a billionaire who is reportedly the ninth wealthiest person in the world (he is worth $51.5 billion, as compared to Donald Trump, who is worth only $3 billion) was, indeed, the best-equipped person to address the financial problems of the late 2000s. But even if that is true, his late entrance into the presidential race, his political tactics, and the commentary coming from his camp all indicate that this run, like his final mayoral run, is about fulfilling his ego, and not about fulfilling a promise to Americans.
Howard Wolfson, an adviser to Bloomberg, indicated in The New York Times that the former mayor “has grown uneasy about the existing trajectory of the Democratic primary.” This concern sounds hauntingly similar to the argument made to reconfigure New York City’s political landscape. The Democrats have a problem, Bloomberg is alleging. And only he can fix it.
Except that Bloomberg is not the only person who can fix America’s problems. As a candidate, he, too, is flawed. At 77 years.old, he would be one of the three oldest candidates. Like Bernie Sanders — and, to be fair, like Elizabeth Warren — Michael Bloomberg is not a lifelong Democrat. In the past decade, he has changed his party affiliation twice. His sheer wealth indicates that he is no more in touch with the everyday American than the current president, even if the policies he endorses are emphatically less upsetting than the policies endorsed by Donald Trump.
Michael Bloomberg does have some redeeming qualities as a candidate, of course. For one, his deep pockets mean that he will likely not need to rely on fundraising as a tactic, nor will he face the inherent challenge of going up against an incumbent who has deep coffers. As a former Republican, he is a moderate candidate, and his views may appeal to swing-state voters who have lost faith in the president. He’s also Jewish, and his election— like Bernie Sanders’ election — would be a watershed moment for American Jews, who have never been represented in the presidency.
Because of his wealth, and probably for other reasons, Bloomberg has already gotten underneath Donald Trump’s skin. “There’s nobody I’d rather run against than little Michael,” the president said on Friday in the Rose Garden, referring to the former mayor’s stature. In the past, Trump has been most prone to attack when it comes to candidates whom he believes to threaten his position. The fact that the president has already come out with guns blazing, even before an official disclosure from Bloomberg himself, speaks volumes about the perception of the race.
But in 2020, many Americans are looking for an impassioned candidate, for someone who is in this for the good of the country and not for the good of himself. The past decade has not made Bloomberg any less of an egoist. And his entrance into an already-full field is just more proof that Michael Bloomberg is interested in what benefits Michael Bloomberg. Does that self-interest translate to a great presidency? If the past three years have taught us anything at all, it is that a self-interested president is no asset to the American people.