Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary, has faced increased criticism in recent weeks for his mayoral record, which received greater scrutiny following his climb in national polls.
I have considered myself a Democrat since I became politically engaged at age 14. I have spent countless hours volunteering for the campaigns of local and state Democratic candidates across the ideological spectrum and even served as the president of my high school’s Young Democrats club for three years. And I am leaving the Democratic Party if Bloomberg is the nominee.
The media focus has primarily been on the police practices that Bloomberg oversaw and supported as mayor. Most notable was the stop-and-frisk program, in which civilians were temporarily detained, questioned and sometimes searched for contraband by the New York Police Department often without probably cause. The practice quickly became a vehicle for terrorizing black and brown New Yorkers, who, in 2009, were nine times more likely than white New Yorkers to be stopped by police.
Overseeing a racist police practice is just one problem among many in Bloomberg’s record. He also allowed a massive surveillance project, conducted by the NYPD and the Central Intelligence Agency, to spy on the city’s Muslim population by profiling mosques, Islamic schools and Muslim-owned businesses. In addition, Bloomberg has a history of making sexist comments, perpetuating transphobia, calling for cuts to social programs, supporting charter schools and standardized testing, defending the Iraq War and financially supporting Republican candidates against their Democratic opponents.
After saying he wouldn’t run in March 2019, Bloomberg entered the Democratic primary in November. While other candidates focused on the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, he opted to focus his time and money on the fourteen so-called Super Tuesday states slated to hold their primaries on March 3 and account for nearly a third of all delegates.
Bloomberg is self-funding his campaign and refusing all political donations. During his first quarter in the race alone, he spent $188 million on advertising and staff. The spending seems to be paying off. In the most recent Quinnipiac national poll, Bloomberg is in third place with 15%, a huge improvement from his 3% in the same poll following in November.
The polling surge has prompted some Democratic politicians to endorse Bloomberg, including thirteen members of Congress, nine mayors and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo. The Democratic Party also recently changed its debate qualifications to remove the donation requirement, a move that Bloomberg's opponents predicted would allow him on the debate stage based solely on poll numbers. Bloomberg qualified Tuesday morning for Wednesday's debate in Nevada after a national poll showed him in second place.
It is extremely upsetting to see so many Democrats welcome Bloomberg into the primary with open arms, considering his long affiliation with the Republican Party. He was elected mayor of New York City as a Republican and, after becoming an Independent in 2007, didn’t register as a Democrat until 2018.
Bloomberg has also donated heavily to Republican candidates in recent years. Most striking, of course, was the $11.7 million donation he made to support Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., who won his race by less than two points and helped maintain the Republican Senate majority.
What’s more, Bloomberg endorsed then-incumbent Scott Brown in his 2012 election campaign against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is running against Bloomberg for the Democratic nomination.
To win in 2020, Democrats need a nominee that poses a clear contrast to Trump, and Bloomberg is quite possibly the only Democratic candidate who fails to do that on all fronts.
It is also very clear to me that a political party that nominates a candidate with such an abysmal record is not a party that I want anything to do with. We all have to draw the line somewhere, and I draw mine at Bloomberg.
Jerrett Alexander (he/him) is a freshman studying international relations and environmental sustainability. He currently sits on the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability.