By John Cassidy
The New Yorker (2/15/20)
ichael Bloomberg is now a serious contender for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination. His unprecedented spending on campaign ads—more than three hundred million dollars, according to some accounts—has lifted him to third place in the Real Clear Politics national poll average. A new poll on Thursday, from the firm St. Pete Polls, showed him leading in Florida. He’s also spending heavily on the ground. Even in Maine, the Bangor Daily News reports, he has hired twenty staffers and dozens of volunteers. The only other candidates with local offices there are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are both from nearby states.
Unless Bloomberg embraces an aggressive agenda to reform the political system, he is essentially offering the voters a form of benign oligarchy. To be sure, that would be better than Trump’s malignant oligarchy. But can’t American democracy do better than that?
The skeptics about Bloomberg’s viability, myself included, underestimated the power of money, and also, perhaps, the strength of Bloomberg’s personal brand. With a résumé that includes being a successful entrepreneur, serving three terms as mayor of New York City, and providing gobs of financial support to various liberal causes such as gun control, abortion rights, and voter-registration efforts, he has earned (or bought) good will, especially among moderate Democrats and independents who are looking askance at Sanders’s rise. But now the game is going to become more challenging for Bloomberg. As he takes part in debates and competes in actual primaries, beginning with Super Tuesday, on March 3rd, he’ll get asked some awkward questions, and not just about stop-and-frisk, the controversial and discriminatory policing technique that he championed as mayor, which has already dogged his campaign. Here are seven more questions for Bloomberg to answer…