This isn’t a personal attack. Bloomberg’s public record shows that he is the candidate that is most like Donald Trump, and I will not vote for him.
As Alex Pareene wrote on why Michael Bloomberg represents a “polite authoritarianism” over at The New Republic, he also noted that Bloomberg’s candidacy is “annoyingly relevant.” That’s true: he’s now in second place at 16.5% nationally according to polling averages at FiveThirtyEight. He’s on TV all over the country. He showed up on the debate stage last night (and Democrats welcomed him with a volley of deserved attacks). That’s relevance, and it’s scary relevance because there are many very important reasons why Michael Bloomberg should not be the Democratic nominee for president.
A couple days ago, I posted fifteen reasons why nobody should vote for Bloomberg, and those reasons all pointed at individual events or aspects of Bloomberg’s record and campaign. Many of them are disqualifying facts on their own, especially how he’s buying the election. Some of them simply reveal Bloomberg’s character. And there are far more than only fifteen reasons.
But I didn’t really get into Bloomberg’s most indefensible trait: he is a conservative authoritarian politician who has a record of blatantly abusing civil rights and supporting policies that are oppressive, right-wing, discriminatory, and racist.
Because of that record, and because of his willingness to defend it, he is, in some ways, perhaps an even worse candidate for president than Trump was in 2016.
But how could that be possible, you might ask? How could someone who has held office in a major city and has a relatively respectable position on climate change be worse than Donald Trump?
When it comes to how Bloomberg differs from Trump, Bloomberg doesn’t really break political norms. Trump’s most obvious flaw is that he doesn’t just break norms in the context of the presidency and national politics; he shatters them with a sledgehammer nearly every day. While Trump will tweet lies and fire and brimstone about racist immigration policy from his little hands, Bloomberg will give a calm speech about why it just makes sense to throw young black and latino men up against the wall and frisk them. He, like Trump, will even try to argue that white people are actually victims of all this. He, like Trump, will claim innocence and an unfair trial, except Bloomberg tried to do that via court appeal when stop and frisk was ruled unconstitutional. Bloomberg has defended his other authoritarian policies as well.
As Ryan Cooper wrote at The Week, Bloomberg is not the lesser of two evils. He had no problem with blatantly abusing New Yorkers’ civil rights, no matter that stop and frisk accomplished nothing and made the NYPD act like gestapo. A vague apology, even when repeated on a debate stage, will never make up for the irreparable harm caused by Bloomberg’s policies. And he has no apology at all for illegally arresting nearly 2,000 protesters at the 2004 RNC and the subsequent settlement (“the largest protest settlement in history”), or for violently removing and arresting Occupy protesters, which are both violations of first amendment rights.
All his money influence, media influence, and silly waste-of-time attack ads on Bernie Sanders supporters like myself aside, Bloomberg wholeheartedly supports authoritarian policies that are unconstitutional, abusive of civil rights, and oppressive towards poor people and people, families, and communities of color.
The difference between Trump in 2016 and Bloomberg in 2020 is that we already know that Bloomberg supports policies that have more than a hint of fascism to them. Instead of a litany of racist tweets and ramblings that gave us the presumption that Trump is racist and likes authoritarian approaches to governing, Bloomberg has an actual record of racism and authoritarianism along with their terrible consequences for which he is responsible.
Derecka Purnell, in an article for The Guardian, notes how stop and frisk compares most closely to Jim Crow laws. She pulls no punches: “Bloomberg and Trump are two sides of the same sinister coin” (that coin is white supremacy). Here’s how she contextualized Bloomberg’s racist policies:
“Bloomberg’s logic illustrates Michelle Alexander’s argument in The New Jim Crow, that politicians exploit real concerns and fears about violent crime to push racially biased and punitive approaches to harass and incarcerate black people for all types of harm. The murder rate is in significant decline across the United States, but the government still pours resources into police and prisons to solve problems that are not there. What Bloomberg calls “unintended consequences” are actually a foundational piece of mass incarceration – the raids, frisks, arrests and jail.
The results are fatal. Police kill around 1,000 people every year, and injure, assault, and harass hundreds of thousands more whose names we will never know simply because they do not die and become hashtags.”– Derecka Purnell, The Guardian
It is entirely unacceptable that moderates or even liberals in America could set aside morality to support a former Republican mayor who utilized brutal and racist law enforcement policies within a criminal justice system that’s rotten with systemic racism and racial profiling, even against its own officers. To enact such policies is to push a society further into an oppressive police state, to exacerbate inequality and racism, to protect and even “victimize” white people at the expense of people of color, and to even move closer to a genocidal state: see Stage 3 of “The Ten Stages of Genocide.”
Now this mayor is a presidential candidate who defended stop and frisk last year even when the data shows that it did not work at all. I don’t think his “decade late” milquetoast apology is any reason to trust that he no longer believes in what he did or why he did it and that he wouldn’t do something similar on a national scale.
No politician who has this kind of bad and brutal record should be allowed anywhere near the presidency. The office’s enormous existing powers would only enable Bloomberg to continue oppressive and even genocidal policies through agencies like CPB and ICE, except Bloomberg is smart enough to do it with a polite tone of voice, a smile, and a handshake, which is far more dangerous than Trump’s overt racism and violence-provoking rhetoric because it slips under the radar as “normal.”
Bloomberg’s rhetoric doesn’t really break norms as much as it insipidly worsens them. Not only does Bloomberg not deserve your vote for more than fifteen reasons. Not only does Bloomberg not deserve your vote just because he’s trying to buy the election.
He doesn’t deserve it because he’s a conservative authoritarian who has already committed crimes against human rights. Even though I doubt he would beat Trump, we must not allow him the chance to enact further authoritarian policies from the White House.
To remove Trump from office, I would vote for any of the remaining Democratic candidates should my preferred candidate (Sanders) and second choice (Warren) not become the nominee. But I will not vote for Michael Bloomberg. He cannot distinguish himself enough from Trump to inspire confidence that he wouldn’t use the same tools of authoritarianism that Trump uses today.