Former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg promised he’d let the nation know by this month if he’d run for president as a self-funded independent. In part, he’s seen the left-wing threat diminish with the Democratic nomination all but certainly belonging to Hillary Clinton.
All but gone are hopes that 2016 would see at least one Jewish contender for the presidency. In a race where the Republican Party is torn apart by both Donald Trump and the radical Tea Party and the center of the Democratic Party is challenged by an open socialist, Bloomberg threatened to jump in as a voice of both sanity and financial prudence. There are more than a few reasons why this is just not meant to be. So let’s review:
1) He can’t win
Not being a national politician, he doesn’t really have a large constituency outside of New York City. In general, big city mayors don’t go on to national elected office (Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a notable exception), and no New York City mayor has. A lot of this has to do with the fact that Bloomberg’s successes are in a unique corner of the country that much of so-called flyover country doesn’t relate to. Also, a mayor’s success is largely judged by an ability to manage direct services to people. A president has to prove an ability to form political alliances in order to enact policies and have them carried out at the state level.
2) He’d hurt Clinton, not Trump
He’d spoil the race, but not in the way he’d want. In New York specifically, he would be popular with moderate Republicans repulsed by Trump and could win over pro-corporate Democrats and centrists who fondly remember his mayoralty and are obsessed with independence and post-partisanship. Bloomberg could deliver the blue state to Trump.
3) Trump would own him in debates
Bloomberg is brilliant at rhetorical battle, but he doesn’t have the charisma or showmanship to battle with the bellicose Trump. Bloomberg can be a rich bully in his own way — while mayor he snapped at reporters who brought up inconvenient questions at press conferences — but Trump is someone who is his own financial size. Trump would welcome the fight and lay into the ex-mayor in a way Bloomberg hasn’t experienced, and couldn’t respond to in kind.
4) He’s not different enough from Clinton
There really isn’t enough policy difference between him and Clinton to stake out a unique position. Sure, he’s a Democrat who became a Republican out of convenience, only to become independent when he could afford to, but the ability for him to do that shows how much grey area there is between corporate centrists and establishment Democrats like Clinton.
5) He has skeletons in the closet
Bloomberg likes to paint a very clean image of himself, someone above machine politics. But a presidential campaign would allow any candidate to bring up the dark spots of his mayoralty, including a botched city employee time-keeping scandal that resulted in indictments of contractors and millions of taxpayer dollars wasted. If he tried to attack Trump on his anti-Islam rhetoric, it would ring hollow since he oversaw a massive police surveillance project on the city’s Muslim community. And his failed attempt to ban large sodas? Yeah, try that one in Middle America.
6) No one likes Wall Street
Well, not no one, but not enough voters. And while Bloomberg isn’t a financier, his wealth comes from selling machinery to an insulated sector that flips money around at the expense of Main Street. Like being a New Yorker, this would seem foreign to too many voters.
7) He’d hate being president
The mayor of New York City has a lot of unchecked power and can shape policies concerning government services without the consent of the city council. This solidified his reputation as a good businessman who brought common sense management to the day-to-day operations of city government. He couldn’t really do that in the White House, having to deal with intransigence in Congress and world leaders with their own agendas, not to mention the Supreme Court. As a CEO and mayor who is used to getting what he wants when he wants it, this job would be no fun for him.
8) Unforeseen consequences
A three-way race could result in no candidate getting enough electoral votes to claim victory, resulting in a constitutional dilemma we’ve yet to experience.
The justice of there not being a path forward for Bloomberg is this: We keep hearing about how a great CEO should be CEO of the nation. But a nation isn’t a company. Citizens are not products, tax revenue isn’t profit and public servants aren’t vessels of surplus value. Disposing of the Bloomberg presidency myth helps dispose of this silly notion, too.