This is not one of those columns that will argue Bloomberg can seize the Democratic nomination. With a national polling average still below 10%, he has daunting odds as long as some combination of Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren remain in the race. Democratic voters will always favor a liberal stalwart over a former Republican who aggressively boosted George W Bush’s re-election bid, unleashed a militarized police force on black and brown New Yorkers, and once mocked the idea of raising taxes on the rich.

But Bloomberg has bought himself a ticket outside the basement of the primary, and this should alarm far more professional Democrats and progressives than it has so far. Even Tom Steyer, a fellow billionaire, is a pale imitation; he’s reportedly spent less than half of what Bloomberg has, despite entering the race earlier.

This should not be normalized. Bloomberg is unleashing an unprecedented, inordinate amount of personal wealth on an advertising blitz that demonstrates just how frail our democratic institutions really are.