Sydney M. Williams
30 Bokum Road – Apartment 314
Essex, CT 06426
Thought of the Day
“A Strategic Mistake?”
February 27, 2020
“Hope is not a strategy.”
Attributed to Vince Lombardi (1913-1970)
The strategic mistake to which I refer was the one made by Michael Bloomberg to enter the Democrat primary for President, rather than to run as an independent. At least, that is my belief. The error was understandable in that no third-party candidate has won the Presidency, since the current two parties began competing in 1860. But, to use those over-worked and dangerous words, this time is different. The incumbent is a man who has never received more than 50% approval, despite the fact that the economy and employment are doing well. At the same time, Democrats have moved decidedly leftward, leaving their center undefended.
In his recently published book, A Time to Build, Yuval Levin wrote, “…[political] parties have been de-professionalized, cannot control their own internal processes, and are increasingly exposed to the power and pressure of political celebrity culture.” What he wrote is visible to anyone with eyes to see. The 2016 presidential election changed the Republican Party. The old way of doing things no longer applied. The 2018 midterm elections, which brought Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MI) to the House, changed the Democrat Party, swinging it far to the left. Optimism for the future was replaced with hatred of the past. In both cases, the change reflects the fact that elections have become less about policy and enacting bi-partisan legislation, and more about platforms for radical ideas. Traditional party members, on both sides of the aisle, have become as isolated from real concerns of the people, as they are distanced from the victorious radical newbies who joined their party. In part, this has to do with the mathematical fact that our national legislature is less representative of the people than it once was. In 1800, the House of Representatives consisted of 106 members; in 2020, there were 435 House members. So, while the overall population has grown by a factor of 72, the number of Representatives has increased by just over four times. In other words, legislators are less representative – in sheer numbers – than they were two hundred and twenty years ago. But these changes also reflect a cultural shift that demeans family, history and tradition. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have taken advantage of the fact that many voters feel that politics as usual no longer applies.
Mr. Bloomberg is a different breed of cat. After a successful career on Wall Street and then founding an enormously successful, eponymous firm that services Wall Street and the world, he began his mayoralty at a difficult time, January 1, 2002. The attack on 9/11 was less than four months in the past. The stock market, which had peaked in March of 2000, would have another year of decline before finding bottom. He weathered the credit collapse of 2008 and a greatly altered financial industry, a mainstay of employment in the City. Despite some nanny-like instincts, like proposing a ban on sweetened drinks of more than 16 ounces and a grandiloquent decision to seek an unprecedented third term, Michael Bloomberg was a successful mayor of New York. The City’s GDP rose about 25% during his tenure, from approximately $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion. He turned a $4.7 billion deficit into a $2.4 billion surplus. New York City’s population declined somewhat after 9/11, but by 2012 was above where it had been when he was sworn in as mayor. Crime rates, which had already fallen in the 1990s, declined further during his tenure: Major felonies were down 40% and murder rates dropped 35% during his tenure. High school graduation rates increased. Mr. Bloomberg, during those years, was more pragmatic than ideological.
His pragmatism could be seen in his party affiliation when he first ran for mayor. Instead of competing in the Democrat primary, he switched parties and ran as a Republican. As Mayor, he expanded the “Stop, Question and Frisk” policy begun by his predecessor Rudy Giuliano. As a consequence, streets were safe and crime rates continued down. He took on the teachers’ unions, especially the United Federation of Teachers, in ending social promotion for students, instituting merit pay for teachers, closing low performing schools, opening more, smaller ones and championing charter schools. He confronted labor unions when policies were harmful to the city’s economy. All of these actions are now an anathema to a Democrat Party that has lurched far to the left; so, he has apologized.
Instead of standing by his record of success, Mr. Bloomberg joined the chorus of leftist progressivism, donning a uniform that ill fits and is unsuitable to a majority of Americans. Theirs is a platform that promotes redistribution over wealth creation. In a column last December, titled, “I Was Once a Socialist. That Changed.”, David Brooks wrote: “Capitalism is really good at doing the one thing socialism is really bad at: creating a learning process to help people figure stuff out.” Capitalism creates a learning process in which the participants – a country’s millions of citizens – make even more millions of decisions every day. Together, we are the system. More than a billion people have been lifted from extreme poverty in the last forty years thanks to capitalism. Socialism, on the other hand, impoverishes the people, while enriching a country’s small band of political leaders. In the best cases, Socialism has had to be modified, to become more capitalist, as those in Scandinavia have discovered. In the worst cases, like Cuba and Venezuela, it leads to tyranny. There is no question about Mr. Bloomberg’s capitalist leanings, but why won’t he defend the system, as Nikki Haley did so well in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed? Is it because of the rise of political correctness, which has even infected the Business Roundtable who now call for “stake-holder” capitalism? Without profits, companies fail, owners suffer. But, so do employees who lose their jobs, suppliers who lose business and the communities in which they operate forego the benefits of a prosperous business. The message from a moderate Democrat who wants to look after the working poor and the disadvantaged, but who recognizes that capitalism is critical to our country’s survivability, is the one Michael Bloomberg should have run on. He is his own best example.
The opportunity he had, in my opinion, was not to get into the mudhole with myriad Democrat contenders, but to run as a third-party candidate. It is true that third-party candidates have not had success in our two-party system, at least at the top of the ticket. The last to attempt was Ross Perot in 1992. But this year is different, if I may again use those dangerous words. In 1992, George H.W. Bush was running for re-election against a moderate Democrat, the former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Voters felt safe with either man. This year, Democrats have moved far to the left, and the incumbent, Donald Trump, is a polarizing figure whose poll numbers, while now at their highest, have never been above fifty percent. Should Mr. Bloomberg have decided to run on his success as Mayor of New York – and avoided the political correctness that is swamping the Democrat Party – he might well have become the 46th President of the United States. He would have attracted Republicans who like Mr. Trump’s policies but who are uncomfortable with his character, as well as Democrats who realize that their Party has spun far away from the mainstream.
It could be that I am mistaken (it has happened before!), and that Mr. Bloomberg is motivated by principle, not power. But I doubt it. The Office of the President of the United States is the most powerful in the world, so serves as a magnet. China and India have more people. Russia has more nuclear weapons. But when one lists nations by wealth, GDP, defense spending or simply the most desirable destination for immigrants, the United States stands alone. Further, the Presidency of the United States has been strengthened over recent years by a Congress that has abdicated much of its responsibility to the Executive and Judicial branches, choosing to walk away from contentious issues like abortion, gun laws and immigration. The Presidency of the United States is the ultimate crown of the politically ambitious, and there are few people more ambitious than Michael Bloomberg.