There are two things I feel compelled to say about Mike Bloomberg and his candidacy.
Thing One: Thank you, Mike!
In a few weeks, Mike Bloomberg—along with the Democratic Party and its allied media—has demonstrated the reality of class rule more clearly than reams of Marxist analysis could.
The Democratic Party, the one political instrument that purports to represent working people and the only one through which they are effectively allowed to pursue their interests politically, defined a set of rules for participation in debates that were designed to ensure that only candidates with a certain depth and breadth of support among voters and donors could participate. On the basis of strict (and some would say arbitrary) enforcement of those rules, the party serially winnowed out a number of candidates, including women and persons of color, with particular attention to excluding an antiwar woman of color (Tulsi Gabbard). Then, after it was clear that the candidate with the strongest working-class agenda was taking the lead, and after receiving an $800,000 donation from Mike Bloomberg, the party changed its rules to allow Bloomberg to participate in the debates.
That would be the same Mike Bloomberg who enforced a Jim-Crow policing policy in the country’s largest city. That’s the stop-and-frisk policy whose stated aim was to throw young black and Latino men up against the wall to intimidate them, the policy that stopped 700,000+ young men a year, 90% of them Black and Latino, literally making more stop-and-frisks of young black men than there are young black men in New York City. That’s the “walking while black” policy that, according to Bull Bloomberg, stopped “white people…too often, and nonwhites not enough.” That’s the policy he bragged about and defended until a month before he declared himself a candidate, and just (along with Joe Biden) lied about stopping.
That would be the same Mike Bloomberg who calls his women employees “fat broads” and “horse-faced lesbians,” tells pregnant women to “kill it,” and has settled dozens of lawsuits for sexual harassment and discrimination from women whom he still keeps silent under the discipline of NDAs.
That would be the same Mike Bloomberg who has “never been in favor of raising the minimum wage,” is in favor of cutting social Security and Medicare, and thinks the financial crisis was caused by a liberal Congress forcing banks to end redlining.
That would be the Mike Bloomberg who is the ninth richest person in the world, with more wealth than 125 million of his fellow citizens.
That’s the guy the Democratic Party, the Clintonite loyalists (men and women, white and non-white) who dominate it, and their allied media pundits on CNN and MSNBC welcomed—indeed, begged—to enter the race for their party’s nomination, and changed the rules so he could. The same people who are now saying the party must allow someone who did not get the most votes to become the nominee because, you know, you can’t change the rules.
So, thank you, thank you all, for confirming the Marxist critique of liberal capitalist identity-politics and demonstrating conclusively—much more effectively than the leftists who have been saying it for four years—that the Democratic Party is not opposed to Donald Trump because of his racism, sexism, or reactionary economic views.
Yes, conclusively, since the candidate you’ve gone out of your way to make room for is demonstrably, unequivocally, worse than Donald Trump on all of those counts. Go ahead, try to change that “worse” to “at least as,” make your case that Donald Trump did something as bad as having an “army” of police throwing hundreds of thousands of black and brown kids per year against the wall for years, five million times, and demonstrate, conclusively, how bad and desperate your best argument is, and now phony your stated concerns about those injustices are.
Because it’s quite obvious that Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump are interchangeable.
In terms of political substance, if Michael Bloomberg had won the presidency in 2016 as a Republican—which he very well could have—the Democratic Party could very well be trying to run Donald Trump against him now. Why not?
The only differences between them are differences of style: Trump is crass, loudmouthed, impetuous plutocrat, Bloomberg a steel-eyed, cold fish plutocrat. Medium hot vs. medium cool narcissism and arrogance.
They both care nothing about party affiliation. Because they are both members of the class that is the fundamental support, and has the fundamental allegiance, of both political parties, they can in fact flit easily from one party to another, using either as needed for their purposes. Political parties are their disposable tools.
However differently expressed, their arrogance, in our polity, is entirely justified. It is the arrogance of the boss, and they are members of the class that is the boss of the political parties. Donald Trump reveled in saying as much throughout the 2016 campaign, reminding his Republican and Democratic opponents how he had bankrolled them. Mike Bloomberg is demonstrating it this year—not as verbally, but even more loudly. Money talks.
So what Mike Bloomberg is teaching us, with the help of Democratic centrists and pundits, is that what qualifies him—in our system and in their eyes—to be a president is his class status and allegiance, that he is a member of the ruling class who will prevent the slightest challenge to its rule.
It is a wonderful lesson in the Marxist concept of class dictatorship, where “dictatorship,” of course, does not mean “one-man rule” but absolute political hegemony. For Marx, the class that has decisive control over the capital wealth of society also has ultimate political authority. A modern capitalist state is by definition a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie” (the capitalist class), even if that absolute political hegemony is exercised through a carefully-circumscribed apparatus of elections, parliaments, and rights.
Indeed, the capitalist class prefers to exercise its ultimate political control through agents recruited from outside the class and institutions and policies defined in ostensibly class-agnostic terms. At this stage of US capitalism, the game is becoming a little too obvious, with those recruited agents having to be rewarded with ostentatious wealth and ruling-class entrée (à la the Clintons and Obama), and, as social discontent increases, capitalist magnates are eliminating the middleman and intervening personally and explicitly (à la Trump and Bloomberg). With Michael Bloomberg, the Democratic Party is reminding us that it’s an agent of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Per Patrick Martin: “What dominates the Democratic Party, no less than the Republicans under Trump, is the politics of oligarchy. It is naked and shameless.”
Thing Two: Michael Bloomberg is not running to win the Democratic Party nomination, or to defeat Donald Trump.
Let’s take the last of those ostensible goals first, because it reveals a lot about the other one. Consider the question: If Bloomberg wanted to defeat Trump, why didn’t he primary him?
The answer, obviously, is that he could not defeat Trump in the Republican Party, among the Republican electorate, no matter how much money he spends, and he knows it. Bloomberg might do some damage to Trump, even enough to weaken Trump’s position in the general election, but he can’t defeat him. His money cannot buy enough votes.
But the same answer just as obviously applies in the Democratic Party. Michael Bloomberg cannot win the nomination of the Democratic Party, among the Democratic electorate, no matter how much money he spends, and he knows it. Maybe, in the depths of his arrogance, he imagines, as one might, that the Trump derangement syndrome running amok among Democratic voters, combined with a billion dollars in ad spending, would make his victory possible, but that would only work if Bloomberg’s record (as well as his repellent demeanor) could be thoroughly hidden and ignored, and there was no effective candidate opposing him. Social media and Bernie, et. al. make that impossible, especially since he’s entering so late. So, no, I think he knows he cannot win.
Bloomberg cannot win either the Republican or the Democratic nomination, or the general election, where Trump would run to the left of Bloomberg and eat him alive. And he knows it. And the Democratic Party knows it.
What Bloomberg can do is exactly the same thing he could do in the Republican primary, except worse: hurt the front-runner. What he can do is ensure that no one else wins the majority of delegates. And the front-runner and only “one else” he entered the race to hurt is Bernie Sanders.
Michael Bloomberg is not running to win the Democratic nomination or to defeat Donald Trump; he is running for one reason: to stop Bernie Sanders. But, given what he and the Democratic Party and everybody with eyes to see know, that means he is running to make sure that someone else—who cannot be him—wins the nomination.
Here’s the dilemma for the Democratic Party as a primary agent of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. It must prevent Bernie Sanders from becoming the nominee, and it also must do all it can to prevent a widespread and radical rupture with the Democratic Party, which would imperil the two-party duopoly that’s been a crucial support of class dictatorship. (N.B.: Beating Donald Trump in the general election is not on this list of party “musts.” It would be nice and all, but important things first.)
We all know what’s coming. Bernie will likely have a plurality of delegates, but with Bloomberg’s help, the party can ensure that Bernie Sanders will not win the majority needed for a first-round victory. We know that, no matter how large a plurality Bernie has, on the second round of voting, deals will be made to combine superdelegates and other candidates’ delegates to elect a nominee other than Bernie.
That nominee, however, cannot be Michael Bloomberg, no matter how many delegates he has. Bloomberg cannot credibly be allowed to steal the nomination from Bernie, and he and the Democratic Party know that.
Stealing the nomination from Bernie for anyone will risk that radical rupture the party must try to avoid; stealing it for Bloomberg would guarantee that rupture. Bernie Sanders himself might withhold even pro forma support from Michael Bloomberg, and he certainly would not campaign for him as he did for Hillary. Bernie’s supporters would just leave the party, for good.
A large chunk of his voters will stay home, as Trump plays Mini-Mike’s racist, sexist, austerity tapes on a loop and wins by a landslide. The Democratic Party will be reduced to Pelosi, Schiff, and Schumer fishing around for Russiagate 4.0.
There must be a third candidate to whom the party can give the nomination, and it must be someone whom Bernie Sanders himself and a large chunk of his supporters might be persuaded to stay in the party and support.
There is only one such candidate: Elizabeth Warren.
Who else? Amy or Pete? Too ridiculous. Warren benefits from the fact that there are a whole lot of people who for a long time bought into the idea that Warren was on the same “progressive” side as Bernie. Though she’s largely destroyed that charade, there is still a remnant of Nation-type progs who promote it, and, with their help and MSNBC’s, she can resuscitate some zombie form of it. Bernie Sanders himself, I cringe to say, would support and campaign for Elizabeth Warren.
Nominating Elizabeth Warren—no matter how few delegates she has, getting the rest precisely from Bloomberg, et. al.—would still lose a lot (most, I think) of Bernie’s supporters, and would also be a loser against Trump, but it carries the only hope of both stopping Bernie and preserving any semblance of “progressive” credibility for the Democratic Party.
We have seen, I think, the first act of this horror show in the Nevada debate, where Warren pivoted back left, leading the charge against outrageously sexist billionaire Bloomberg.
If I’m right, this will become the ongoing kabuki theater in the weeks ahead, in which Warren sets herself up as the non-socialist and therefore “effective” anti-billionaire candidate, luring “woke” professional-managerial “progressives” desperate for an “alternative” to Bernie.
This is the only way for Warren to revive her campaign and audition for the endgame: fake left, attacking Bloomberg and dragging on Bernie’s popular coattails.
Wow! Liz was tough. She’s back on our side! Did you see everyone tweeting about how we should consider her as Bernie’s VP again? She’s holding out a really nice apple.
But please watch Lawrence O’Donnell, after the “rough exchange” in which Warren smacked Bloomberg relentlessly, pointing out that they had a “very cordial conversation…that was real” and “had absolutely nothing to do with everything else you saw on TV during the debate.” Liz is socking it to Mike just as she did to Hillary, until she supported her. And Warren now has Hillary’s people running her campaign. Rough but cordial, these exchanges are.
Warren will really be Bloomberg’s +1. Given the 15% eligibility rule for delegates, the DNC will not want more than two other candidates, including Bloomberg vying for delegates against Bernie much longer. Bloomberg costs them nothing and can stay in forever, so the DNC will browbeat the other lame-ass candidates—Buttigieg and Klobuchar—into quitting quickly, and direct donors to Warren’s new Super-PAC. Re-energized by this money and her newly re-discovered anti-billionaire rhetoric—all of which just happened to appear as the prospect of a Bernie plurality loomed as inevitable—Warren will spend the rest of the campaign frontally attacking billionaire Bloomberg, while passively-aggressively sniping at Bernie’s “divisiveness,” and steering the critique away from class conflict.
Bloomberg and she will accumulate enough delegates to prevent a first-round convention vote victory for Bernie. Then, in the second round, the DNC will “persuade” Bloomberg and whoever else has delegates (and with bribes from him) to give their delegates to Warren. The party will triumphantly say “See, we’ve nominated the other anti-billionaire ‘leftist’.” Neither a billionaire nor a communist. Goldilocks.
Bloomberg will have spent a billion dollars to get Elizabeth Warren nominated, by being her whipping boy, and he will be happy to have done it. ‘Cause he will have “got done” what he wanted most: the defeat of Bernie Sanders and the leftist movement he inspired—in the Democratic Party, at least—and a tenuous preservation of the oligarchic party duopoly. Call it a sacrifice that’s a lesson to us all in class solidarity. Or call it chump change.
What will become of that leftist movement outside of the Democratic Party? Who knows, but it’s the right question to ask.
We’ll see quickly how it’s going to plays out. If Warren continues the rhetorical strategy from Nevada, money pours into her Super-PAC, and Pete and Amy drop out, it will become obvious that the process is unfolding toward the denouement I’ve suggested.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the road ahead to the nomination is less sinuous than I imagine. Maybe Warren won’t climb to the nomination on Bloomberg’s back, but will be crushed under his feet. Maybe Bloomberg will either run from the criticisms or really buy the whole thing up for himself. Maybe Bernie will stumble and not get a plurality. Maybe the Dems will come up with some deus ex machina candidate at the convention. (I’ve heard Sherrod Brown mentioned by a longtime Democratic operative.) But none of these outcomes will work as well for the Democratic Party’s purposes. I think this Bloomberg-Warren Punch & Judy show, culminating in the victory of the strong woman against the arrogant billionaire is the only way the Democratic Party can both steal the nomination from Bernie and hope to keep any of his supporters (and possibly even Bernie himself) in the fold—or, indeed, to preserve any credibility for the two-party plutocratic system.
And the bonus: When Trump beats Warren, they can blame it on the people’s sexism rather than their rejection of the plutocracy. And, of course, mobilize #Resistance and #impeachment 2.0.
It’s a hell of a game, Snakes and Ladders.
About The Polemicist
Left-socialist analysis from Jim Kavanagh, a New York City native and denizen. Also publishing on Dandelion Salad, CounterPunch, Op-Ed News, The Greanville Post, Reader Supported News, Z, and various sites on the net.
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