Hi there. Are you a young person with a “Mike” problem? As in, Michael “Mike” Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, running to be the Democratic presidential nominee, under the strategically casually styled auspices of “mike2020”? Have you received phone calls, emails, or neatly punctuated texts from the boomers in your life — perhaps the very boomers who gave you life — in which they proclaim they are “thinking about Mike Bloomberg?” Or maybe they recently posted Thomas Friedman’s New York Times article “Paging Michael Bloomberg” on Facebook with the caption, “Good points here.”
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. You’re just one in a growing legion of youthful persons contending with a certain demographic, made up mostly of voters aged 50 and up who make over $50,000 a year, who have been swayed by Mike Bloomberg’s billionaire antics, which have seen him saturate television ad markets, rise in some early state polls, and suddenly become a “front-runner” in the race to the White House, despite his troubling record as mayor and the dozens of discrimination and harassment lawsuits he’s faced.
The standard boomer’s arguments in favor of Bloomberg typically goes as follows: He is the only one who can beat Trump. He has an almost inconceivably vast war chest to compete with the dark money funding the orange guy. He has a record of getting things done on Democrat projects like gun control and climate change. He can help win back control for the party, and that should be the No. 1 priority for liberals.
But almost all of these claims are easy to challenge, starting with the fact that Bloomberg is in no way the only Democrat currently beating Trump in the polls, and ending with how he has been responsible for harmful policies that have directly impacted the working class, female, and nonwhite base of the Democratic Party. And, crucially for the Bloomberg-curious boomer set, it’s not merely disaffected millennials who feel this way — there are many pundits and political analysts who are worried about his viability. Here is a CNBC article that you can show them, for example, that says Bloomberg has too many negatives. Yes, CNBC! With comments by former House Democrat Barney Frank! Now you’re speaking their language.
For your convenience, here is a rundown of the best talking points to use in helping to shift your boomer associates away from Michael Bloomberg:
Bloomberg has a huge problem with women, one that’s only going to get worse.
In the past 20 years, Bloomberg’s eponymous company has been hit by 40 discrimination and harassment lawsuits from 64 employees. He has been accused of making a slew of offensive comments at and about female subordinates, including allegedly telling a pregnant employee to “just kill” her unborn child. And though he has denied many of the claims against him, he has admitted to saying “I’d do her” about multiple employees, more than once. (He later claimed that he thought “I’d do her” was about having a relationship. Okay.)
Regardless of whether your chosen boomer decides to explain away these events as products of “a different time” or “a macho work environment,” the Democratic Party has made Donald Trump’s misogyny a central part of its criticism of his presidency (and its electoral strategy — women were instrumental in helping win back congressional seats in 2018). It hardly seems logical to counter “grab her by the pussy” with “I’d do her.” Perhaps your boomer witnessed Elizabeth Warren raising this very point in the most recent Democratic debate.
Bloomberg has a huge problem with people of color that’s only going to get worse.
Bloomberg is finally reckoning with the legacy of stop and frisk, one of his signature policies. During his tenure as major, police officers stopped, searched, and interrogated over 5 million mostly black and Hispanic New Yorkers, the majority of whom hadn’t committed a crime. And though he eventually apologized for it, many found his timing suspect: It came right before he announced his presidential bid — and a mere month after his most recent defense of the policy. (Here is an extremely helpful, boomer-friendly New York Times timeline of his decades-long support for it.)
The notoriety of “stop and frisk” means that even Trump can pounce on this record and potentially even tout himself as a criminal-justice reformer compared to Bloomberg. In fact, it’s already caught his attention; Trump recently tweeted (and quickly deleted) a clip of Bloomberg defending stop and frisk in 2015 with the caption, “WOW, BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST!” Winning over black and Hispanic voters will be crucial to beating Trump at the polls, and it will cost the Democratic Party to run someone with such obvious vulnerabilities.
Polls do not show that Bloomberg is the only Democrat who can beat Trump.
The latest Quinnipac University polling shows all the top Democratic candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Bloomberg beating Trump in general election matchups by a spread of 4 to 9 percent, and this hasn’t really wavered in the past year. It gets scarier for all Democrats in state-by-state battleground polling, as we learned in November when Nate Cohn’s New York Times analysis showed Trump narrowly holding onto a lead against every candidate in crucial swing states. Bloomberg was not included in those numbers. But in recent numbers from the battleground state of Wisconsin, in which he was included, Trump beat Bloomberg by eight points — meaning Bloomberg is tied with Pete Buttigieg in second place, and a point below Bernie Sanders.
Allowing Bloomberg to “buy” the nomination would be detrimental to the Democratic Party.
Bloomberg supporters who are sympathetic to criticisms of his record tend to argue that, in desperate times, anyone is better than Donald Trump. We just have to beat him in this, the most important race of our lifetimes. Then, once the Democrats are in the White House again, theirs can be the party to clean up his messes like the travel ban, child separation, and leaving the Paris agreement, and set things right for progressives for the long term.
Except that just isn’t true. The longevity and credibility of the party itself is at stake in a possible Bloomberg candidacy. If Bloomberg were to cinch the support of delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination, it would be by saturating the airwaves with billions of dollars worth of ads and, as Eric Levitz has argued at Intelligencer, by effectively “outbid[ding] all of his rivals for top-shelf campaign staff.” Accepting this transaction of wealth for power flies directly in the face of the values the Democratic Party supposedly stands for, and on which it has staked its merits for the past 50 years: the dignity of the working and middle classes, civil rights, and social justice. Emphasizing those values helped win back the House in 2018, when the Democratic base turned out in droves. Forsaking them won’t only fail to mobilize voters; it will also, arguably, erode any meaningful distinction between the Democratic Party’s purportedly populist values and GOP elitism.