11 September 2013

A bad day for Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg was elected to three terms as mayor of New York City despite embodying much that people despise in politicians. For many observers he combines the worst aspects of the plutocrat and the bureaucrat, while his fortune allows him a degree of independence from the major parties few others can hope to earn. His quixotic efforts to regulate the portions of fast or junk food that can be served or sold have helped make him the poster child for the dreaded "nanny state" while his support for police "stop and frisk" policies draw scorn from many otherwise assumed to be natural constituents of a nanny state. Some may still hope that he'll run for President as an independent in 2016, but Bloomberg suffered two rebukes yesterday that remind us of his widespread unpopularity. In his own city, the Democratic party has nominated to succeed him the candidate who reportedly went the furthest to define himself in opposition to Bloomberg. Worse, Bill De Blasio's apparent victory, which automatically makes him the favorite in the November election, follows what may be the most asinine comment of Bloomberg's political career. Resenting De Blasio's criticisms, Bloomberg accused him of running a "racist" campaign -- by which he meant that the candidate was somehow pandering to ethnic voters by allowing himself to be shown with his wife, a black woman. Meanwhile, nearly a continent away, Bloomberg had reportedly spent $350,000 to oppose a recall campaign against two Colorado state senators, one of them the senate president. They had been targeted because of their support for gun-control legislation; gun-rights groups had targeted four senators but failed to get enough signatures to force recall votes on the other two. Despite Bloomberg's support, which may in fact have worked against them, both Democratic senators were recalled and replaced with Republicans last night, the winners boasting that faraway billionaires would not dictate how they could defend themselves. For all we know, Bloomberg may mean his departure from public life, once his term ends, to be temporary, but the people hastening to kick his ass on the way out seem to have a different idea. Across the ideological spectrum, there may be quite a bit of irrational resentment both of what Bloomberg is and of what he's perceived to stand for. It's inevitable and arguably healthy for citizens to question a billionaire's presumption of expertise in politics, so long as our perceptions of the actual issues aren't distorted by his association with them. In short, even if his ultimate record is more mixed than the demonizers believe, we're probably better off without him in public life.

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