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The Bloomberg Factor: Authoritarianism, Money and US Presidential Politics

Binoy Kampmark

Democratic Presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg in Norfolk, Va. Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Bill Tiernan)

Political rottenness may be bottomless.  Consider the following description of a political aspirant for the White House, this person being from the Democratic Party.  His “liabilities as a political candidate are so glaringly obvious that it’s easy to dismiss his presidential bid as a vanity project.”

The author goes on to describe what can only be seen as a template of sorts.

He is utterly devoid of charisma, has no real organic base in the Democratic Party, and is a viable candidate only because he’s filthy rich and is willing to inundate the race by opening up his nearly limitless money pit.”

At a pinch, Jeet Heer, writing in The Nation, might have been describing Donald Trump in 2015. But this treatment is afforded to the cash-heavy Michael Bloomberg, accused of representing “another strand of authoritarian politics.”

Heer has a point, but it is a prosaic one.  The nature of most political systems is that they produce a type of political candidate deemed acceptably pestilential. 

The danger for US presidential politics was long in coming; that the Founding Fathers, in their vision of republicanism, would fail to prevent the next emperor from emerging.  Restraints, fetters and oversights have long been the stuff of this idea: you cage the emperor-to-be, render the figure accountable. The modern presidency, with all the accoutrements of the entangling state, has achingly chafed against them.

Abraham Lincoln can be seen to be a pioneer in this regard, and almost peerless in terms how he expanded the position of the executive power in the US.  As the civil war against the South bloodied and bled the state from April 1861, he came to be seen as authoritarian and loose with the Constitution.

He self-arrogated one prerogative after another, usurping Congressional powers in ordering the blockade of Southern ports, initially calling for 75,000 militia troops and a further 40,000 three-year volunteers.  Then came the suspension of habeas corpus. As with previous figures accused of having Caesar’s pretensions, he was assassinated.

The Trump presidency has certainly been a cause of alarm for those fearing the onset of a new tyranny. The Donald has been casually venal in office, outsourced its functions for personal gain and treated his position as a theatrical extension of a social media presidency.

The distinction between political manipulation deemed acceptable by the Constitution’s framers, and abuse deemed unconstitutional, is currently being tested and is unlikely to make the distance.

As the impeachment drama unfolds in the House, the clutch of Democratic candidates has done nothing to suggest that this trend in American politics is shifting.  Messy, discordant and disparate, the field remains cluttered.

The departure of Kamala Harris, and the entry of former New York mayor Bloomberg, was a strong suggestion of things to come, a sort of social Darwinian culling in the offing.  Harris might have been an identitarian’s identity-kit politician, an antidote against white-male chauvinism, but her positions were unclear and elastic. Her departure from the race, however, threw up an inescapable fact: to run for the White House entails having pockets so capacious as to be obscene.

As Harris campaign manager Juan Rodriguez noted in a memo,

“To effectively compete with the top campaigns and make the necessary investments in the critical final 100 days to the [Iowa] caucus, we need to reduce expenditures elsewhere and realign resources.”

This is the language of budgeting, corporate outlays, and management, a far cry from presidential majesty.

Bloomberg’s bid furnishes a similar claim. It is an announcement that the only way of removing a wealthy white male with authoritarian tendencies is to supplant him with another, even wealthier one.  His candidacy is already teasing out gushers and admirers.

Michael Starr Hopkins, a promiscuous strategist who worked with the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Delaney, insists that Bloomberg cannot be dismissed out of hand. 

In a normal election cycle, I would not give much attention to his candidacy, certainly not as a Democrat.  But as we all know, this is not a normal election cycle, and the fallout from the re-election of Donald Trump would only enforce his authoritarian tendencies.”

Hopkins evaluates Bloomberg and finds an impressive figure able to defeat Trump: 

“He is better than Trump in every way. Successful businessman, check. Dedicated philanthropist, check.  Effective politician, check.”

This flurry of enthusiasm for the improved Trump – the one who actually succeeds at the President’s pretensions – has not been in a minor key.  Thomas Friedman, holding forth from the New York Times, was “glad” Bloomberg had stuck his oar in.

“Today ‘billionaire’ has become a dirty word and a disqualifying status for many in the left of the Democratic Party.  To me, that is as nonsensical as dismissing Elizabeth Warren as a ‘communist’ who wants only to confiscate your money.”

The non sequitur remains Friedman’s glaring strong suit, but deployed in this way shows how far gone the state of US politics is.  He digs into the usual reserves of justification as to why a voter might go for the wealthy authoritarian with Caesar’s ambitions. Bloomberg was “not just some wealthy dude who made his money betting on derivatives on Wall Street and now pops off about the need to cut taxes.”

He “risked everything”; he showed pluck in starting “a business that took on giant incumbents and outperformed them and boosted productivity.”

Fellow New York Times stable mate Bret Stephens is of like mind, and method.  If you accepted the proposition that “trouncing Donald Trump is essential to the preservation of liberal democracy, then it won’t do to cross fingers and hope he stumbles.”  Bloomberg’s addition “would be a gift to Democrats, the country and the world. Sneer at it at your peril.”

Bloomberg is pushing his own credentials by boosting those of the incumbent. But he does so using the very same language that failed to convince voters against Trump’s merits: well cured experience and ample readiness for office.

I think Trump is getting stronger and I think he would just eat alive the candidates.”  His rivals, he continued to explain to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, lacked “practical” plans and “management experience and the President’s job is a management job.”

So the logic of the moneyed authoritarian, the executive bully in politics, comes full circle. Trump’s legacy, on some level at least, is assured.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

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Ptbates
Ptbates
Dec 19, 2019 1:44 PM

Good, but could have been better. Maybe should have zeroed in on his policies and proposals and his checkered history in the financial world.

MASTER OF UNIVE
MASTER OF UNIVE
Dec 18, 2019 8:37 PM

Billionaire Bloomberg is far better for business than the bellowing buffoon of belligerence & bellicosity is. Simedouchery in the SuperPac Class is necessary in the case of The Duck where tax returns are not yet forthcoming for the next election.

Who cares what forces are arrayed against The Duck?

He is being impeached as of right now. The Duck’s goose is fully pre-cooked pre-election 2020.

Screw The Duck.

MOU

Dungroanin
Dungroanin
Dec 18, 2019 2:56 PM

This piece doesn’t display properly as a link at the home page.

The lates Zeusse piece seems to be lacking comment feature.

Browser checking is back.

How is the investigatio into the attacks on OFF-G servers going?

Sophie - Admin1
Admin
Sophie - Admin1
Dec 18, 2019 3:39 PM
Reply to  Dungroanin

The nature of DDoS attacks makes it virtually impossible to trace those responsible unfortunately

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker
Dec 18, 2019 4:01 PM

Comments are not open on the NSA / Mueller story?

Sophie - Admin1
Admin
Sophie - Admin1
Dec 18, 2019 4:20 PM
Reply to  Frank Speaker

I just checked and found comments had been accidentally disabled on that story. I’ve enabled them now.

lundiel
lundiel
Dec 18, 2019 6:59 PM

GCHQ A3A Hubble Road Gloucestershire.

wardropper
wardropper
Dec 18, 2019 2:53 PM

I hope I won’t be misunderstood here, but let’s not forget that, at some level, the leader of any country MUST be authoritarian.
Running to the library every five minutes to check on what the constitutional law does, or does not, allow in every given circumstance is obviously a recipe for flabby government, and corruption thrives just as well in a flabby environment as it does in a ruthless one.
Western politics really needs to be totally rethought, but I honestly have to admit I cannot see how a genuinely new initiative (they do exist) could possibly get off the ground.
This excellent article shows precisely why.

Antonym
Antonym
Dec 18, 2019 6:02 AM

Bloomberg calls for closing all coal-fired power plants to combat climate change

, From COP25.
That is US coal power plants, not China’s.

Drive the West more into the hands of the Anglo Arab oil moguls and make profit from dumped Chinese solar and wind stuff. Nothing about more nuclear. Perish normal Americans. What a good manager!

Seamus Padraig
Seamus Padraig
Dec 18, 2019 8:33 AM
Reply to  Antonym

That’s all that modern ‘environmentalism’ really is anyway: just outsource all our pollution–not to mention jobs–to China. It’s called NIMBY: not in my backyard!

Tim Drayton
Tim Drayton
Dec 18, 2019 11:58 AM
Reply to  Antonym

Actually, there is an abundance of natural gas in the Appalachians that can be fracked out very cheaply and can replace coal for energy generation, and is in fact doing so. While still a hydrocarbon, natural gas produces around half the volume of carbon dioxide to produce the same amount of electricity, and it does so at a competitive cost.

norman wisdom
norman wisdom
Dec 19, 2019 1:11 PM
Reply to  Antonym

arab oil mongrels arab oil mongrels
the house of saud are donmeh they are not arabs
the house of saud was and is a city of london rothschild mi6 cia zio project.
the scum with the beards and costumes are pantomime actors

arab mongrels
what of you antonym oded yinon tool

Antonym
Antonym
Dec 18, 2019 3:34 AM

Sure, both Trump and Bloomberg are NY billionaires. Good that they don’t have to beg all kind of shady clubs for campaign money.
Biggest difference between them: Bloomberg defended Chinese president Xi Jinping for doing such a good job while Trump berated Xi for his state capitalist export while disabling foreign import.
Also Bloomberg is Jewish so that might cost him in Arab friendly circles.

Trump doesn’t make money from export to China but Bloomberg and friends do.

MASTER OF UNIVE
MASTER OF UNIVE
Dec 18, 2019 10:18 PM
Reply to  Antonym

Deutsche Bank is where Trump gets his money, and Russian Federation, of course.

Trump is a misogynist so that might cost him 51% of the vote.

And Bloomberg has legitimate billions whereas Trump’s money is fake, and tied to Deutsche Bank, which is bankrupt.

Tax returns, man.

MOU

paul
paul
Dec 19, 2019 3:42 PM

Trump’s last tax return showed he had paid 28% tax, whereupon Rachel Madcow’s chin hit the floor.
“Vote for me, I’ve got $52 billion, not that Trump, he’s as poor as church mice, he’s only got £10 billion. The poor schmuck even pays his taxes. What kind of a loser is that?”

paul
paul
Dec 19, 2019 3:37 PM
Reply to  Antonym

Bloomberg’s religious beliefs won’t cause him any problems in the Gulf dictatorships.
The fake moslems in Shady Wahabia have been in bed with the Khazar fake Jews from Kosherstan for decades now.

pasha
pasha
Dec 18, 2019 2:26 AM

The Republicans, via packing the SCOTUS, cemented in the “money is free speech” meme. If we have to have a billionaire president, then for god’s sake let’s have one that proved he’s reasonably honest, decent, and competent. Biden or Bloomberg? FFS, there’s no comparison. The jackals would eat Bernie or Warren alive. Tulsi Gabbard has only one issue, even though it’s the most important, and the knives are already out.

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum
Dec 17, 2019 10:32 PM

The words ‘power’ and ‘aphrodisiac’ spring to mind.
It’s pathetic really, because it’s not power in the true sense of the word.
The sun is power, the waves are power, the wind is power etc.
Power is unadulterated, undirected energy.
As for the aphrodisiac aspect, that’s best left alone. The imagery is too horrific to contemplate.

nondimenticare
nondimenticare
Dec 17, 2019 10:06 PM

Not unfair to Bloomberg, but perhaps unfair to Caesar. Read The Assassination of Julius Caesar by Michael Parenti.

LKach
LKach
Dec 17, 2019 10:54 PM
Reply to  nondimenticare

Also unfair to Lincoln who was fighting a Civil War in which the slave oligarchy very nearly defeated the Republic.

Seamus Padraig
Seamus Padraig
Dec 18, 2019 8:43 AM
Reply to  LKach

Still, imagine of the South had successfully seceded. Slavery would’ve ended eventually anyway, and now America, split in two, would’ve had great difficulty evolving into a global(ist) empire. Fair trade?

Jen
Jen
Dec 19, 2019 1:27 AM
Reply to  LKach

The US CIvil War was not all about the issue of slavery.

Before he became a politician, Lincoln was a lawyer who specialised in cases dealing with the railway construction industry. He took on a number of cases in which he defended private railway building companies and others in which he defended opponents of those companies. He may have had investments in some of these companies and might have stood to lose financially if the United States had split up into two weak countries that could not hold the territory in the Rocky Mountains region and open it up for railway line construction. California would have ended up isolated and vulnerable to foreign takeover. In fact, during the US Civil War, the Russian navy sent ships to San Francisco to help defend the state from British interference.

Possibly for Lincoln, fighting the Civil War was as much to save his own bacon as President and lawyer (when he might have anticipated taking up his old career after a second term as President) and that of his contacts in the railway construction industry, as it was to stop the spread of slavery.

paul
paul
Dec 19, 2019 3:44 PM
Reply to  LKach

The tyrant Lincoln drenched the country in blood in the war of Northern Aggression.

Capricornia Man
Capricornia Man
Dec 18, 2019 4:43 AM
Reply to  nondimenticare

Indeed, Parenti’s book is an absolutely brilliant history of ancient Rome from a people’s perspective. My favourite roman history.