If you had just beamed down from the planet Neptune and turned on the television, you might be confused by a new campaign ad that features Barack Obama and a man who apparently was his vice president for eight years, Michael Bloomberg.
Because Obama’s actual vice president isn’t a billionaire, Americans have been barraged with a brilliant 30-second spot of revisionist history that highlights the Obama-Bloomberg “team” rather than the real Obama-Joe Biden team.
While Bloomberg and Obama had a decent working relationship for five years when they were in public office together, they weren’t exactly a progressive Batman and Robin. The mayor made no endorsement in the presidential race in 2008 and sat out the 2012 presidential campaign until its final days, endorsing Obama over Mitt Romney in an op-ed column, scolding the president because he “engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it.”
Which brings us to taxes. As a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, Bloomberg sounds like a tax-and-spend liberal, talking up the two property tax increases he pushed through in 2002 and 2008. But – until now – his rhetoric largely embraced the Republican “no new taxes” pledge, even cutting back on public library hours as mayor rather than finding the money to keep them open on Saturday.
Never running as a Democrat in his three campaigns for mayor, Bloomberg saw Democrats return the favor all three times; exit polls show Bloomberg never won the city’s Democratic vote in any of his elections, instead relying on Republican and independent voters.
The concept today of Mike Bloomberg being a big “D” Democrat also has to draw chuckles from John Kerry – who saw Bloomberg endorse George W. Bush for president in 2004, when he also welcomed the Republican National Convention to Madison Square Garden.
Bloomberg is a Democrat turned Republican turned independent turned Democrat. His political identity has embraced pragmatism over party – which might be a winning formula in a general election but is harder in a Democratic primary race with candidates like Elizabeth Warren – especially when Bloomberg may have to explain why he endorsed Republican Scott Brown over Warren in 2012.
With his “there’s no Democratic or Republican way to take out the garbage” history, Bloomberg has far more in common with third-party presidential candidates of the past than he does with Sanders, Warren, Biden, and Pete Buttigieg. But Bloomberg and his political team also know that third-party presidential candidates are typically the answer to political trivia questions rather than becoming actual presidents.
So meet woke Mike Bloomberg, who now frets about “stop-and-frisk” policing and thinks taxing the rich makes a lot of sense. I can give you history but I can’t buy $1 billion worth of ads. Can you guess who could win this argument?