As if the crowded race for next year’s Democratic presidential nomination needed any more drama, this week saw reports that former New York mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg may be launching a bid for the right to run against President Donald Trump next year.
Talk about wild cards: Bloomberg, a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t Democrat, could have a significant impact on a party said to be lurching to the left, further dividing Democrats at a moment when they need to show unity. Is this what an angry, suspicious nation needs — another billionaire with a history of high-handed management (and allegations of crude statements about women) leveraging his fortune to win the White House?
But Bloomberg is a legitimately self-made man who served three terms of the nation’s biggest city, setting him apart from an incumbent who leapt from TV reality star to chief executive in a single bound and whose administration has reflected all the inexperience and impetuousness of its leader. In his 12 years as mayor, Bloomberg’s administration proved pragmatic, responsible and budget-conscious, and resistant to corruption. Bike lanes and the rebirth of Lower Manhattan are a big part of his legacy.
And there is the Jewish factor: Bloomberg is Jewish, and knows the Jewish community well. Presumably he will position himself as the moderate alternative to a faltering Joe Biden, appealing to centrist Jews who are simply concerned that the other candidates can’t beat Trump, or who worry about a resurgent Democratic left seen as hostile to Israel. But a billionaire moderate could also turn off progressive Jews, just as Mayor Bloomberg’s aggressive policies on policing could doom his candidacy among many African-American voters, a critical Democratic constituency.
Voters will also wonder if the United States is ready for a Jewish president who appears to embody one side of the country’s blue-red divide, has made gun control his passion and has already been attacked by some dog-whistling Republican politicians for the money he spends on political causes.
It’s unfortunate that Bloomberg prefers to be anointed as the Democratic Party savior, as opposed to putting in the groundwork and state-by-state campaigning that would have made him a more credible candidate. There is no precedent for a late entrant winning the White House.
And yet, in these vertiginous political times, with a president who went from “The Apprentice” to the Oval Office without passing go, anything can happen.
And we have a hope: that Bloomberg, while waging an assertive campaign for the nomination, will use his experience as mayor of America’s most diverse city to strive to unite a bitterly and dangerously divided nation, and remind voters that politics is the art of the possible.
More coverage here: Bloomberg Jolts Race For Jews Of All Stripes