I don’t know the mechanics of getting on the ballot in the various states as an independent candidate for president. Regardless of the hurdles, however, I suspect that Michael Bloomberg would do the country a greater service by running as an independent rather than by seeking the Democratic nomination.
Bloomberg is pawing the ground about entering the Democratic primaries. The reported strategy would be to skip the early contests, which favor retail politicking among the party faithful. And then flood the 15 Super Tuesday states with his largesse, while less well-funded competitors have to pick their battles.
If Bloomberg opens his wallet, he can be a factor. And if he could become the Democratic nominee, he would have an infinitely better chance of becoming president than if he ran as an independent.
He doesn't fit today's Democratic Party
But regardless of how much he spends, his chances of becoming the Democratic nominee seem an impossible long-shot. Bloomberg just doesn’t fit the current Democratic Party.
He is not truly a centrist. In fact, he’s a throwback to the New Democrats of the 1990s. Bill Clinton was the most successful exemplar. Former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt was another prominent practitioner.
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One of the things that made the New Democrats different was their acceptance of the market as the economic engine for progress.
New Democrats believed in regulating commerce to protect consumers, investors and workers. But they didn’t think that government could replace the market as the generator of jobs and improved material well-being. The overall regulatory environment had to be conducive to investment, entrepreneurship and risk. Markets had to be free to work.
That’s an alien concept in today’s Democratic Party.
Bloomberg is what Dems have rejected
Today’s Democratic Party doesn’t trust market forces. Those leading the Democratic field seek to tame or suppress market forces, not unleash or leverage them. Business success is demonized, not celebrated.
If Bloomberg entered the Democratic race, he would be the only major candidate who understands the critical importance of investment capital in fueling a market economy. The other candidates want to substitute government investment for the private market, and tax investment capital out of existence.
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Bloomberg’s immense business success represents what Democrats today think is wrong with the economy. And his spending a fortune seeking the nomination represents what they think is wrong with our politics.
Even though Bloomberg is otherwise fairly liberal, particularly on gun control and climate change, on the economy and politics, he is what Democrats are rejecting, not what they embrace.
Why an independent could be helpful
Whatever the obstacles, Bloomberg’s chances of being on general election ballots as an independent are much greater than his chances of being on them as the Democratic nominee. And that would be a healthy thing at this political moment.
Bloomberg has had presumably very bright political consultants evaluate the chances of an independent winning the presidency and concluded that they were nil.
Moreover, Bloomberg’s principal objective is to defeat Donald Trump. And conventional wisdom is that a well-funded independent candidate would divide the anti-Trump vote, making his victory more likely.
That’s probably true. But perhaps not entirely, and not inevitably.
The choice between four more years of the Trump soap opera and a candidate, such as Elizabeth Warren, who wants to remake the United States in the image of a European-style social democracy would be a difficult one for centrists and center-right voters. Trump needs those voters to hold their noses and vote for him. Bloomberg would give them a comfortable alternative.
These parties have outlived their usefulness
The two-party system has served the country well. Multiparty democracies around the globe are a mess.
But the current parties have outlived their usefulness. The Democratic Party has become an instrument for abandoning the American system of democratic capitalism and assimilation, in favor of European-style political economy and identity politics. Even if Joe Biden becomes the nominee, he will have had to embrace enough of that to have compromised himself.
The Republican Party has become a cult of personality, in which loyalty to Trump trumps principle, on policy and conduct.
Arizona illustrates how the current two parties no longer serve the broader polity. A third of Arizona voters decline affiliation with either. In fact, independents outnumber Democrats. There was a point at which they outnumbered Republicans as well.
As an independent candidate, Bloomberg could serve the purpose of pointing toward a post-party political future for the country.
And in this crazy political season, perhaps lightning could strike and an independent could be competitive.
In 1992, Ross Perot got nearly 20% of the vote running against Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, far more palatable choices than the ones the two parties are likely to serve up in 2020.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Michael Bloomberg presidential run: Democrats are too liberal for many