Considering the high rate at which private equity firms are gobbling up U.S. corporations and even veering into electoral politics, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if billionaire New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg really did decide to run for president.
As the world shrinks, government is moving farther and farther away from the people it rules.
The breaking news today is that Bloomberg has switched his registration from fake Republican to independent — not that he himself stands for independence. Bloomberg’s always been a rich blend of Republican and Democrat — with an emphasis on “rich.” So here’s what came out of New York this evening, according to the Washington Post‘s Perry Bacon Jr.:
Bloomberg, who made billions as the founder of a business information company that bears his name, spent more than $100 million in his campaigns in New York and could invest millions into a potential candidacy if he decides to run.
Mitt Romney, a founder of Bain Capital, is already in the race, running for the GOP line. Hillary and Rudy have tapped into the rapidly growing industry of very lightly regulated private equity funds. You know democracy is in bad shape when even shareholders are getting shut out of the big action.
Bloomberg isn’t much of a Republican, but he isn’t much of a Democrat, either. For that matter, he isn’t much of a small-D democrat. But this new green party of private investors in public corporations and public politics — maybe not your idea of a third party — has a big tent, especially in New York, where many private equity firms and hedge funds are headquartered.
Bloomberg should be particularly scary to those who love civil liberties. He’s not a knee-jerk reactionary. No, he’s a mildly moderate social liberal — at least in his personal views — and a piranha-like fiscal conservative. He didn’t build his own media empire by being a dissenter — quite the opposite: He catered to the bidness community by feeding them the news they wanted so they could play more games with our money.
Bloomberg doesn’t seem to have a natural sympathy — or even tolerance — for those who dissent, who question. As I noted in December 2005, he rolls out the red carpet for the likes of Uzbek dictator/torturer Islam Karimov but condemns a transit strike as “morally reprehensible.”
In September 2005, it was easy for him to pull the plug on Cindy Sheehan only a few yards away from a Gandhi statue in Union Square. As mayor, Bloomberg has been an extremely difficult opponent for dissenters and dissidents.
Cracking down on dissent is a good business practice to Bloomberg, but it plays hell with the Constitution. Take a look at my colleague Nat Hentoff‘s recent “J. Edgar Bloomberg: COINTELPRO in NY.”
However, Bloomberg also knows how to keep his own mouth shut — even at the wrong times. Lacking the personal pizzazz of mayors like Fiorello LaGuardia, Ed Koch, and Giuliani, he has let the Bush regime off the hook. Colleague Wayne Barrett pointed that out in 2005:
It has become a veritable axiom that the Bush administration’s Iraq fixation has diverted it from apprehending bin Laden, but the mayor of the city Osama savaged has yet to utter an encouraging word about the half-hearted pursuit, much less critique it. In fact, he recently tweaked Fernando Ferrer as a death penalty flip-flopper when Ferrer, very much unlike Mike Bloomberg, raised the specter himself, saying he’d make bin Laden an exception to his “moratorium” on executions. Bill Cunningham, senior adviser to Bloomberg’s campaign, says he “can’t think of the circumstances where the subject of bin Laden would come up,” an echo of the startling Bush declaration that he doesn’t “spend much time on bin Laden, to be honest with ya.”
And take the 2004 Republican National Convention debacle. (See “Streets of Rage,” by my colleague Tom Robbins and ex-colleague Jennifer Gonnerman.) A huge number of people poured into the streets to protest George W. Bush and his regime, but Bloomberg’s troops were more than ready and herded the mostly orderly throngs through elaborate chutes and pathways akin to those of a cattle feed lot.
God love the protesters, but they had little impact on the election, and the Democratic Party gave them no rhythm for standing up to Bush. Meanwhile, Bloomberg didn’t hesitate to stir up the fears of unrest in the streets of New York, right in tune with the mainstream media, which also love order.
Bloomberg would be a quite scary president. With the powerful NYPD and a massive bureaucracy dominated at the top by developer-friendly and public-school-hatin’ officials, he wants to run the kind of orderly New York City that Singapore’s old despot Lee Kuan Yew would probably love. And without the canings.
Now if Bloomberg could only get rid of those messy street vendors. Squeezing the color out of New York City would suit him fine.
One good thing: Bloomberg’s entry into the race could shake up the currently encrusted two-party system. Only in 21st century America could we envision a billionaire making that kind of contribution to democracy.