Doesn’t this sound a little … Trumpian? Newly minted presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg sat down with CBS This Morning’s Gayle King to explain his late entry into the Democratic primary, and how he fits into the populist mood. King presses Bloomberg to answer Elizabeth Warren’s charge that multi-billionaire is trying to buy the election — and Bloomberg echoes Donald Trump in arguing that at least he can’t be bought:
EXCLUSIVE: @MikeBloomberg responds to some of his opponents’ claims that he’s trying to ‘buy the election.’
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) December 6, 2019
What’s most interesting about this is that, syntax perhaps aside, one can easily imagine Trump giving King nearly the same answers to these questions:
KING: Well, it would be no surprise to you that your fellow candidates are not so glad to see you get in. Elizabeth Warren suggested you’re trying to buy the election. Bernie Sanders says as a billionaire you can run even the dumbest person on the Earth and pay for it. You see what they’re all getting here — the point they’re all making?
BLOOMBERG: Yeah, the point they’re making is —
KING: You’ve got a lot of money.
BLOOMBERG: — it’s okay if they — no, what — the point they’re making is, it’s okay if they ask other people for all their money and it will help their careers. Whereas, if somebody goes out and makes the money themselves and gives it away — I give an enorm — virtually all my income goes to public health issues and education and the arts and the environment, things that I care about. And I think I could do a lot of good for the country if I could become president. And so using some of those moneys to fund the campaign is fine. What is true is —
And one of those “things that I care about” is pretty clearly Michael Bloomberg. Why else would he jump into the race at this late stage, if not to swamp out the field with his own cash and leapfrog to the nomination — without going through the bruising primary process?
KING: But I don’t think you should miss the point, Mayor.
BLOOMBERG: — look, my — wait a sec. My father made $6,000 the best year of his life. I don’t come from money. Nobody gave me a head start. I had — my parents gave me an education in the public school system in Medford, Massachusetts. And they taught me ethics. And they taught me hard work. I worked my way through college. And then I worked for 15 years. I got fired. I started a company. The company turned out to be phenomenally successful —
KING: No, you’ve been very successful.
BLOOMBERG: And I give 100% of the money away. What’s wrong with all of that? And then I turn and they’re criticizing me for it. I don’t know, ask them what they’re doing. Why didn’t they do that? They had a chance to go out and make a lot of money. And how much of their own money do they put into their campaigns?
Now that sounds especially Trumpian, right down to the sad victimization and elite pseudo-rejection. (By the way, it’s pretty clear that Bloomberg didn’t “give 100% of the money away”.)
KING: But I think the point that they’re making, and a lot of people are making, is you’re a billionaire who’s buying this election. What is your response to that?
BLOOMBERG: I’m not buying any more — I’m doing exactly the same thing they’re doing, except that I am using my own money. They’re using somebody else’s money and those other people expect something from them. Nobody gives you money if they don’t expect something. And I don’t want to be bought.
That argument comes straight out of MAGA circa 2015, when Trump and his supporters argued that his fabulous wealth meant that he didn’t need anyone’s help to win the election. That turned out not to be entirely true — Team Trump and the RNC relied heavily on traditional fundraising — but it still sells as part of Trump’s campaign.
Warren has her own issues these days, but she’s still probably more representative of the Democratic mainstream on this point. Their brand of populism is based on eat the rich, not greet the rich. The right-leaning populism that pushed Trump into the presidency was based on a hostility to Washington- and Academia-centered bases of power that no longer bothered to recognize people outside of those bubbles, but it’s a populism which still respects capitalism and success. Bloomberg’s trying to buy a nomination in a party which resents both capitalism and success, especially in excess of either, in favor of redistribution and socialism. In that sense, Bloomberg might have been better advised to run against Trump in the Republican primaries, except of course for the whole gun-confiscation project he’s also been floating with his own cash for years.
For an exit laugh, here’s Bloomberg telling King that Joe Biden’s still his friend, even though the only reason Bloomberg’s running is that Biden’s still winning. Thanks, pal.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 6, 2019