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It's Bloomberg-For-President O'Clock Again, Apparently

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 20/10/2015 Jason Linkins
ATHENA IMAGE © Brent N. Clarke via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

Is Michael Bloomberg going to run for president, this year or any year? The answer is no.

In the great big world of wonderful and harrowing possibilities, in which the forces that govern the universe could yank almost any scenario from their sack of swirling chaos, "Bloomberg For President" is one of the things you need to worry about the least. So, why are you worrying about it? This is where I get in close, look you in the eyes with benevolence and support, and say, "It's not your fault," over and over again, until we are both weeping and hugging like that scene from "Good Will Hunting."

It's not your fault. It's not your fault.

No, the reason you keep hearing about Bloomberg maybe running for president is that the idea remains very popular within a coterie of weirdos that is vanishingly small in population but unshakable in their belief that they are the center of the universe and occasionally capable of magnifying their voice in combination: financial sector executives, cloistered Acelastan media professionals, third-party promoters/shakedown artists, and people who live in Manhattan's one-percenter aeries (so, most of Manhattan).

These forces occasionally combine to produce a synthetic form of "news" -- like the piece Andrew Ross Sorkin published Tuesday morning in The New York Times' Dealbook titled, "A Bloomberg Run? Drums Are Beating." That headline is a promise on which the piece fails to deliver. In fact, it fails so spectacularly that you get a sense that maybe even Sorkin, a reliable carrier of briefs for the hermetically sealed sects enumerated above, is starting to lose faith.

If so, he would just be following recent trends. The "Bloomberg For President" fantasia has long been a steady political trope that gets dropped into "the narrative" now and again. Recently, however, the sands have shifted under its foundation as Bloomberg has become distant from his former political career and the realization sets in that he was not actually some universally respected, unifying figure in American life.

In fact, back in April, when this election cycle's first Bloomberg-related hot takes arrived, the pretense that the former New York City mayor was some sort of iconic political personality who could unify conservatives and liberals as a Great Crossover Hope -- the core belief that animated First Wave Bloomberg mythologists -- had pretty much succumbed to a reality in which Bloomberg was thought of in mainstream conservative circles as the guy who was going to take away your guns and sodas and trans fats.

Now, Bloomberg's path to victory involves being a "Democratic alternative" to Hillary Clinton. And this has been fairly comical -- watching Bloomberg fanboys attempt to wrestle with a workable concept of "alternative to Hillary Clinton." Needless to say, it is entirely divorced from numerous electoral fundamentals, such as: the existence of a Democratic "base" that's not composed exclusively of private-equity executives and the people who love them, the process by which Democratic candidates for president win the nomination by first appealing to the residents of early primary states, the fact that winning the presidency involves competing for votes in a series of "swing states," and so on.

I mean, let's try to imagine what a "Democratic alternative candidate to Hillary Clinton" might look like in the eyes of voters in an important state like, say... Ohio, or Virginia. This imaginary candidate does not look like Bloomberg, anti-gun economic elitist.

As Sorkin's piece makes clear, the beating drums aren't coming from some reservoir of Democratic voters in swing states who are starting draft movements, setting up small donor campaigns, and working in the weeds to get buy-in from influential early-primary state political figures, as you'd typically see in politics. Rather, a hedge-funder said something about it at a conference, and some other guy put some unsubstantiated rumors on Twitter. I guess Sorkin couldn't do what I would have done: Ignore the noise. Instead, he tried to find the signal, buried within. He came up with this:

The plutocracy’s renewed interest in Mr. Bloomberg pursuing a run for presidency is the confluence of several factors, according to conversations with some of New York’s business boldfaced names. One is an anxiety by some Democrats that Hillary Rodham Clinton has been forced to move too far to the left on issues related to business, regulations and taxes. Some Republican business voters worry that Jeb Bush, their preferred candidate, has become lost amid the attention heaped on Donald Trump and will struggle to gain the backing needed to win.

While it's true that "Republican business voters" lately have been feeling like outsiders at their own party, they'll take relief in the fact that even Donald Trump is kidding about having a populist tax plan. As for Democrats, anyone who has been paying attention to the race this year, or to Democratic Party politics in general, can tell you that the Democratic base is, if anything, anxious that Clinton isn't quite to the left enough. That's why we have this thing called "the Bernie Sanders campaign." It's also why I strongly suspect you could count Sorkin's number of "some Democrats" on the average household's number of available fingers.

You can kind of tell that Sorkin doesn't quite believe in this himself:

Of course, this popular parlor game of Manhattan’s moneyed elite may just be an echo chamber that has no resonance in the rest of the country. And Wall Street’s interest in Mr. Bloomberg could be a liability to his candidacy.

Allow me to confirm that indeed, this whole notion of a viable Bloomberg candidacy is absolutely the product of an echo chamber that has no resonance in the rest of the country. Dealbook can put this fact in the bank, triple-A rate it, sell speculative derivatives around it, and never worry about it failing. (A bonus fact: Not only is Wall Street's interest in Mr. Bloomberg a possible liability to his candidacy, its interest in any candidacy is a liability to that candidate.)

Whoever these remaining supporters of a Bloomberg presidency are, the extent to which they've not been paying attention is striking. Per Sorkin:

Still, it is Mr. Trump’s enduring position atop the polls that has convinced them that there is a path to the presidency for Mr. Bloomberg. The conventional wisdom before Mr. Trump’s campaign was that a billionaire was unelectable; given Mr. Trump’s success, Mr. Bloomberg’s friends say he should revisit his stance.


“People thought a billionaire couldn’t run for president,” Mr. Ackman told me in an interview on Monday. “Trump disabused everyone of that notion.”

So, the idea here is that Trump's initial success in the Republican primary is somehow the long-sought proof-of-concept for the theory that billionaires are viable presidential candidates? Because there's a much simpler thing that Trump's proven: If you're willing to straight-up indulge the Republican base and clearly enunciate their nativism and nationalism as often and as full-throated as possible, you'll get at least 25 percent of them to go along with you.

This is an astonishing idea being enunciated here! "Bloomberg can run because Trump has finally proven that a wealthy person can be a presidential candidate." I keep saying this sentence over and over again out loud, and I swear I'm getting giddy and lightheaded!

At any rate, the good news is that Bloomberg himself doesn't think he can win and won't run. Sure, the former New York mayor mostly couches these beliefs in the idea that somehow the American political system is stacked against him, as opposed to the more reality-based explanation that there is no broad coalition of voters that's all that interested in his bespoke blend of authoritarian public-policy fads and elite-favoring economic policies just because he also believes in climate science and won't say disparaging things about immigrants.

This probably won't be the end of Bloomberg speculation this cycle, because it's a long, long time between now and Election Day, and sooner or later, someone is going to get bored or stuck on deadline without a good idea and they're going to birth another "Bloomberg For President" take into the world, where it will stumble about haphazardly for a few minutes and then tip over and die. The important thing to remember, again, is that you needn't to worry about any of this, and that none of this is your fault. I care about you, and you don't have to hurt anymore.

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