‘I’m sorry… I’m afraid I can’t do that’: Bloomberg and the pod bay doors of capital
MILES ELLINGHAM details the societal corrosiveness of Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to become the Democratic nominee and a rundown of his track record
LAST week Michael Bloomberg stepped into his second debate of the democratic primaries. Since officially announcing his campaign for president last November the ex-New York mayor and 9th richest person in the world has spent delirious sums of money on, among other things: 2.4 billion Facebook campaign ads, an onslaught of TV commercials, a 60-second slot at the super bowl, pay-per-click Google ads, “self-aware ironic memes” from Instagram influencers, five hundred “digital organisers,” billboards and the conscription of his own television network to produce investigations into the rival Sanders and Warren campaigns’ apparent overspending on Amazon office supplies.
The injection of this “arrogant billionaire” (as fellow potential nominees have dubbed him) into the 2020 Democratic primary not only underlines an immense and uncanny hypocrisy on the part of any proposed Democratic Bloomberg supporters, but also a sinister watershed moment in the relationship between Western democracies and the billionaire class — the closing of the pod-bay doors of capital, the mask finally slipping, once and for all.
Now let’s not kid ourselves — the super rich have been pulling the strings in politics forever. They have their own interests — almost exclusively concerning taxes — and any political movement willing to shoulder those interests can consider themselves the lucky beneficiary of unswerving financial support. Here in Britain, perhaps with exception of Tony Blair, the billionaire class have typically favoured the Tory Party — after all, if there’s one thing you can count on a Tory for, it’s an inheritance-retaining, trust-fund cementing, estate-ensuring tax policy.
This creates massive problems for socialist movements or parties that immediately threaten the interests of the billionaire class, as they don’t just have to play-catch up in the mainstream political media — where anti-socialist sentiment is rife — but are also faced with a massive uphill struggle financially, because a vast string of billionaires will line up behind the opposing candidate.
This is part of what happened with the December defeat of Jeremy Corbyn: the Tories were funded by private-equity tycoons, billionaire producers, property developers and hedge-fund managers. Labour had to mostly rely on the unions.
In the US, this unholy alliance is even more pronounced, with more brazen campaign donations from more salacious billionaire backers. Western democracies tend not to breed serious threats to the interests of the billionaire class and the hyper-capitalist powers take a more behind-the-scenes role — an omniscient council of vagueness akin to SPECTRE or The Legion of Doom.
Now, however, with the Bernie Sanders campaign raking in popular appeal, primary delegates and staggering levels of grassroots donations, capital’s omniscient council of vagueness has sent in its T-800 in the form of Mike Bloomberg.
The entire paradigm of a Bloomberg run for president of the US isn’t just a bad idea, it’s fundamentally authoritarian and totally antithetical to the pursuit of democracy and social justice.
First of all, Michael Bloomberg has imperious despotic tendencies and a record coloured by racist policies and sexual impropriety. Whilst mayor of New York, Bloomberg pursued a policy of “Stop and Frisk” which expanded police powers to intrusively stop and search individuals, primarily in minority neighbourhoods. This policy of institutionalised harassment saw recorded stops spike to over 680,000 during just one of the years in which it was enacted.
Bloomberg voiced an apology for the policy but only directly preceding his run for president, years after it had been axed. Video later emerged of him saying, “we put all the cops in the minority neighbourhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do you do it? Because that’s where all the crime is…” A statement so racist, it got called out by President Trump on twitter — “WOW, BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST!”
As reported in the Washington Post, Bloomberg’s business information company has also been hit with “nearly 40 discrimination and harassment lawsuits from 64 employees, many of whom contend that he cultivated a boys’ club atmosphere from the top down.”
One of Bloomberg’s alleged sexist misdemeanours, from a 1997 sexual harassment lawsuit, involves telling a former salesperson who was pregnant to “kill it [her baby]” before eventually firing them. Reported quotes attributed to Bloomberg also include “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they’d go to the library instead of to Bloomingdales,” “I know for a fact that any self-respecting woman who walks past a construction site and doesn’t get a whistle will turn around and walk past again and again until she does get one.” And, according to another lawsuit, telling certain women: “I’d fuck you in a second.”
He might be running as a Democrat these days, but Bloomberg was a Republican and a proud backer of George W Bush’s “war on terror” — which he praised profusely in an official endorsement of Bush’s re-election bid back in 2004: “I want to thank president Bush for leading the global war on terrorism. The president deserves our support.”
Not only might Michael Bloomberg be more interventionist, more authoritarian and more imperialistic then Trump, but he’d undoubtedly be better at it as well. Bloomberg isn’t stupid, not like Trump is, but calculating and vicious — and that should scare anyone.
The idea of simply buying an election shouldn’t be a novel concept to anyone really. Elections have, for a long time, been decided on the merit of financial backing — however, never has one been so nakedly co-opted by the billionaire overlords as in the potential ascendance of Bloomberg. This is the ribald spasm of a broken system and a refutation of Bloomberg is a refutation of that systemic failure.
Make no mistake, any pretence that for those at the top this was ever about anything more than the preservation of billionaire interests has now been abandoned. Those across the pond, or indeed over here advocating for Bloomberg, must own the fact that he’s running exclusively as a billionaire defending his right to billionaire hegemony. And with the superdelegates waiting in the wings to usurp the popular vote — potentially in favour of a Bloomberg run — what the late Hunter S Thompson titled the national convention’s “million pound shithammer” stands poised above our transatlantic cousins’ heads.
With a Bloomberg primary win, the US, with its supposed role as arbiter of democracy, will have tilted headfirst into a William Gibson novel. The progressive coalitions have asked the billionaire class to open the pod bay door, and the super-rich have answered, in the mechanical voice of Michael Bloomberg, “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t do that…”
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