The spoiler in the 2000 election was Ralph Nader, an ardent liberal activist who thought the Democrats were drifting to the right. Al Gore could have won that election with just a fraction of the fraction of votes that Nader captured on Election Day.
Today, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a closet liberal that believes Obama is not bold enough on taxes and is unoriginal on human rights, threatens to do with his money what Nader did, one speech after another, on the campaign trail.
Bloomberg has set up a $15-million PAC to support down-ticket candidates with “spines.” The only possible strategic consequence of his PAC and it’s precious rationale is to harm Obama’s chances, and avert our attention from the unavoidable choice on November 6—a nationwide path forward with Democrats and a nationwide path backward with Republicans. A niche of attractive spines won’t change that.
You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to discover that not choosing to vote for either the Democrat or the Republican in 2000 made a huge difference. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist now to see this election will make an important difference as well.
In his New York Times interview, Bloomberg tried carefully to be evenhanded. Of Romney, he noted that Bain Capital doesn’t give you the experience to run the country and, oh yes, he’s “wrong headed” for his opposition to raising taxes as part of the deal to fix the budget.
Accepting the central plank of Obama’s case against Romney’s platform, you’d think, would be a good sign for Obama supporters. Nope.
Bloomberg resents Obama’s coyness and his presumption on taxes:
“This business of ‘Well, they can afford it; they should pay their fair share?’ Who are you to say ‘Somebody else’s fair share?’ ”
Bloomberg’s billionaire pales talk like that all the time.
However, it’s bit rich for a politician who has had the courage—and the votes—to raise numerous taxes on New Yorkers to take offense when a presidential candidate lays out what he thinks is a fair way to raise more money.
Later, he suggests income taxes actually should be raised across the board, implying that Obama’s a wimp. That action, of course, would do severe harm to the recovery. In any event, isn’t Obama’s argument about what’s fair the essence of a substantive democratic election?
On taxes, climate change, guns, same-sex marriage, and abortion rights, Bloomberg is on Obama’s side, and not Romney’s. Nevertheless, in the grubby business of finding enough votes to win a national election, Obama’s not taking enough chances, not attacking on all fronts the way they did every Sunday night on West Wing—or the way Ralph Nader did in 2000.
Unadorned, Bloomberg is not supporting Obama because he thinks he’s got more guts: Obama isn’t showing battlefield valor in selling across America those liberal values Bloomberg represents on the Island of Manhattan.
The election, unfortunately, is not about impressing New Yorkers or influential men who hoard their political capital.