By Alex Knepper
Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Independent billionaire, media mogul and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has emerged to see if the national press would care about his shadow and give him six more weeks of attention. Allegedly, he is laying the groundwork for a possible presidential run, making this the third straight election cycle we’ve been forced to endure chatter like this. Although associates say he is only likely to run if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wins the Democratic nod, it is not at all obvious that even a Trump-Sanders match-up would leave a void for someone like Bloomberg to fill.
Bloomberg’s ideology is frequently misunderstood: his beliefs are not idiosyncratic, nor are they merely a difference-splitting ‘centrism’ that amounts to a grab-bag of left-wing and right-wing beliefs. Bloomberg sees it as the primary duty of government to secure the health and safety of the people. Its ‘size and scope’ should be precisely as expansive as they need to be to fulfill this fundamental duty. Bloomberg is most hostile not to conservatism (or progressivism) but to libertarianism. What links his gun control advocacy, regulatory promiscuity, and backing of stop-and-frisk is a belief that government has an active role to play in keeping individuals safe and healthy — and should not relegate itself to the background. But Bloomberg is not dogmatic: he knows that in order for the people to trust government with these tasks, it needs to be perceived as efficient, accessible, and accountable. In a phrase, we might call him a security-oriented good-government liberal — at least on domestic issues; he has made few statements about foreign policy.
Bloomberg last won re-election by a shockingly bare margin, and the history of New York City mayors running for president — Rudy Giuliani, John Lindsay — is not terribly impressive (might it be those ‘New York values’?). And one can only imagine Bernie Sanders’ glee at the prospect of getting to run against two self-absorbed New York City billionaires. But if Bloomberg were to pull a Trump and surprise us all with his entry, the most likely result would be to open the floodgates for a third-party free-for-all. Center-right and libertarian-oriented Republicans and conservatives, after all, would still have no acceptable option.
What’s exceedingly more likely is that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination comfortably, the GOP establishment will resign itself to Donald Trump, and none of this will come to pass. Bloomberg’s potential base shares too much overlap with Hillary Clinton’s, especially since she has made gun control a centerpiece of her domestic agenda. But since we’re all discussing his name and career in the context of the presidency, I think it’s fair to say Bloomberg has already won.