“And a rich old white man shall lead them.” Is this saying found in the Bible or any other collection of sacred texts that those committed to social justice admire? If not, then why are liberal pundits (and even some of my friends) rushing to declare Michael Bloomberg to be the candidate—and perhaps the only candidate—who can save America from Donald Trump?
When the Democratic Party changed its rules to allow Michael Bloomberg onto the stage after “following its rules” to exclude Kirsten Gillebrand, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Julian Castro, I was appalled. I agree with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that it is imperative to get big money out of politics. I supported the small step in that direction enshrined in the debate rules requiring significant numbers of small donors. The decision to rescind this rule in order to place Bloomberg on the debate stage made my blood boil: it confirmed what I already knew—that the Democratic party is not fully committed to cutting its ties to big money.
Bloomberg’s brazen attempt to buy himself the Democratic nomination should be reason enough for progressives to reject him. That Democrats are rushing to support him may say more about their fear of Trump winning again than about any admiration they have for Bloomberg. Joy Reid, for example, opined that Bloomberg would be able to outspend Trump in the election and that unlike other Democratic candidates, he would not be afraid to fight just as dirty as Trump.*
Michael Ruben Bloomberg notoriously expanded stop-and-frisk in New York City to obscene proportions, violating the bodies and constitutional rights of mostly minority men and boys, and not only defended the policy, but mocked his detractors and bragged about it.
What Bloomberg did as mayor amounted to a police occupation of minority neighborhoods, a terroristic pressure campaign, with little evidence that it was accomplishing the goal of sustained, long-term crime reduction.
Nearly 90 percent of the people stopped were completely innocent. He knew that.
Most of the Democratic candidates recognize that the incarceration of minority males for minor drug-related charges—in some cases for having one marijuana cigarette in a pocket—is a major failure of the “war on drugs” and the criminal justice system as a whole. Incarceration for minor drug infractions falls heavily on the black community. Suffice it to say that “stop-and-frisk” policies were never meant to be carried out on college campuses or at fraternity parties or in places where white people work and live. Imagine what might be found at a stop-and-frisk operation in a hedge fund office: I doubt it would be marijuana!
“Stop-and-frisk” has ruined the lives of a generation if not generations of young black and brown males and itself has contributed to crime—given that incarcerated marijuana users are exposed to criminal gangs in the prison system and find it difficult to get work when they are released. According to Blow:
No amount of Democrats’ anti-Trump fear and panic will ever erase what Bloomberg did. Democrats have a field of fascinating candidates. Many have some crime and justice issues of their own, but nothing approaching the scale of Bloomberg’s racist policy.
If Democrats cast aside all of these candidates in favor of Bloomberg and his wealth, I fear they will be making it harder to defeat Trump in November.
It is probably no coincidence that the “rush to Bloomberg” coincides with the acquittal of Trump on impeachment charges followed by Trump’s claim to authoritarian power in firing the Vindmans and Sonderland and in his direction of the Justice Department of William Barr to intervene in the sentencing of his criminal friend Michael Stone. Progressives and Democrats are right to be worried that a second Trump term would be likely to spell the end of democracy in the United States. The new interest in Bloomberg also coincides with the recent primary victories of Bernie Sanders. Centrist Democrats fear that Sanders cannot win and some also fear that if he wins the nomination, he will try to end the cosy relationships between the Democratic party and big money.
Nonetheless, the question remains: what is the best way to defeat Donald Trump?
One group of pundits suggests that in order for Democrats to win the election, it is important to appeal to centrists who voted for Obama and Trump and/or to the mythical otherwise relatively liberal white male working class voter who simply didn’t like Hillary. For this group, Bloomberg may seem like a viable candidate. His racism or alleged racism might even be seen as attractive to some Trump voters.
Others say that the key to winning the next election is energy and excitement. About half of eligible voters do not vote. What is needed is a candidate who can get already registered voters to the polls and inspire the unregistered to register and vote. Advocates of this view suggest that a progressive candidate advocating real change is the one who can do that.
I have listened carefully to both of these arguments. From what I can tell, liberals and progressives agree that there is no clear way to decide between them. As a progressive who cast her vote for President without enthusiasm in the last election, l lean to the second view: I would like to see Warren or Sanders as the Democrat’s choice. I like to think that one of them could rouse the sleeping majority to vote.
Yet it seems that there are many progressives who believe that they must sacrifice their personal preferences and convictions in the name electability. I remind them of this:
The means are the end in the process of becoming.**
We like to imagine that it is right to use any or almost any means to achieve a good end. In this case, the thought of a second Trump presidency is so terrible that any means are acceptable. But the means used to achieve an end do not vanish into thin air once the end has been achieved. They linger on, corrupting the desired end in the process.
If Democrats choose Bloomberg, it is not guaranteed that they will defeat Trump. A devil’s bargain with his money and willingness to fight dirty combined with a wink at his racism could backfire. Faced with a choice between two (old white male) wealthy and corrupt candidates, many Democratic voters might decide to stay home.** And if Bloomberg were to win, the idea that the rich can buy the American elections would be confirmed (once again). Moreover, the American people would have replaced one President who does not care about the lives of young men of color with another! Is that the best we can do? I sincerely hope not.
*Reid was critical of Bloomberg on AM Joy this past weekend.
***It has also come to light that Bloomberg blamed the 2008 economic crisis on the ending of racist mortgage policies known as redlining; that after publicly renouncing membership in racist and sexist white male clubs, he quietly rejoined them; and that the business he founded was a toxic nightmare environment for women. We are not talking about a single “mistake.” Apologize though he may, there is a pattern here.
Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who will soon be moving to Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.
Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.