For the past 3 years, as US President Donald Trump has instituted travel bans on Muslim-majority countries, instructed US police to brutalize people they arrest, waged war on the nation’s working poor, assaulted the rights of women and LGBT people, and locked immigrant children in cages while separating them from their families, Democrats have rightly decried him as a racist, a tyrant and a bigot. As the Democratic primaries heat up and voters decide who they will choose to take on Donald Trump and send him into the dustbin of history, Democratic Party leaders are in danger of exposing their “resistance” as the charade that it is by nominating someone who is everything they so forcefully denounce in Trump: former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Despite Democratic claims to oppose the massive wealth inequality that permeates this country and the tyranny of the richest 1%, many Democrats have quickly thrown their faux concern to the wind and embraced the candidacy of someone who is an even bigger oligarch than Donald Trump. Mike Bloomberg, a former Republican who endorsed George W. Bush for President at the GOP Convention in 2004 and supported the Iraq War, is one of the 10 richest people in the entire world with personal wealth of about $66 billion. According to Common Dreams, “Bloomberg could spend $100 million every single day on his presidential campaign between now and election day in November… and he would still have a net worth greater than $30 billion. He would still be one of the 30 richest people in the world.” Perhaps most disturbing of all is the fact that he is using this vast fortune to literally buy the American presidency. Having only been in the presidential race for a few months, he’s already spent more money on TV ads than any presidential candidate in history, $400 million so far. The DNC has even changed some its own previously agreed to rules to allow him on the debate stage in Las Vegas after he made them a generous donation.
If this billionaire oligarch is allowed to buy his way into the nation’s highest office, how will he treat those who are among the poor and working class? One need only look at his record as New York City Mayor to understand that he has a profound hatred of the less fortunate. In a 2018 talk given to the International Monetary Fund, the Mayor harshly criticized minimum wage laws as an impediment to job creation and defended the awful practice of finger-printing the working poor who received food stamps. Regarding the minimum wage in the United States, Bloomberg stated, “The first thing to do is to get rid of some of these impediments to job creation… We have minimum wages. And a minimum wage means that the employer has to pay up to that level for their employees.” When it came to a law proposed in 2012 to require “recipients of large economic development subsidies to pay their employees at least $10 an hour”, Bloomberg denounced the proposal as “soviet communism.” Apparently demanding big corporations that receive public money treat their employees fairly is “soviet communism” while the working poor who receive subsidies need to be finger-printed and treated as criminals. Needless to say he was not in favor of raising the minimum wage until shortly before he announced he was running for President.
While corporate Democrats state they will never consider voting for Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders because he’s “not a real Democrat”, they seem to have no problem with the fact that Bloomberg spent his years as Mayor as a Republican. In 2004 he endorsed the reelection of President George W. Bush and threw his support behind the reprehensible Iraq War that led to the deaths of over a million Iraqis. At that year’s GOP Convention at which Bloomberg spoke, he unleashed his gestapo police force on peaceful demonstrators. The thousands of unlawful arrests eventually led to “the largest protest settlement in history”. He employed the same brutal tactics in defense of his friends on Wall Street against the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. In Mike Bloomberg’s New York no one was allowed to challenge the rich and powerful, while the poor were criminalized or priced out of the city due to gentrification.
Most notorious of all his authoritarian policies was Stop & Frisk, a racist policy that exclusively targeted Black and Brown young men in impoverished neighborhoods before it was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the courts. While the policy started under the previous administration, Bloomberg intensified it and, by his own admission, exclusively enforced it on people of color. Podcaster Benjamin Dixon recently unearthed audio of Michael Bloomberg admitting to instructing the NYPD to racially profile, arguing that it is justified because “only minorities” are criminals.
“Ninety-five percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit the same profile. You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities 16 to 25. That’s true in New York. That’s true in virtually every city…
One of the unintended consequences is people say, ‘oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.‘ Yes, that is true. Why? Because we put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that is true. Why did we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is.”
Under the Stop and Frisk regime of Mayor Bloomberg, young Black men were routinely stopped by police officers based solely on the color of their skin, “strip searched, punched, kicked, slammed, beaten, groped, tasered, choked, and shot in these stops. Drugs were planted. People were framed.” This happened a documented 5,081,689 times during Bloomberg’s 12 year reign of terror, and that’s only what the NYPD reported. More than 95% of the time absolutely no contraband was obtained as a result of these stops. “The New York Civil Liberties Union found that only 14 out of every 1,000 stops produced a gun and only 1,200 of those 10,000 were offenses that resulted in fines” according to The Rolling Stone. 88% of the people who had their rights violated in this way were either Black or Latino. Only 9% were white. Bloomberg, however, insisted in 2013 that the real victims of Stop & Frisk were white men: “I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.”
When it came to murder victims in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg had as much empathy for them as he did the victims of Stop & Frisk. “Nobody in New York gets murdered,” he insisted. “If you get murdered, first thing we want to do is, what were you selling or who are your family members? Because it just has to be you’re a drug dealer or have… a family quarrel. There’s just no other, no other kind of verdict whatsoever.” Undoubtedly one of the best known victims of Bloomberg’s policies was Kalief Browder, who tragically took his life after being physically tortured and sexually abused at Rikers Island. He was swept up and sent to the Rikers chamber of death without ever having been charged with a crime.
Despite all the pain and destruction he brought the Black and Brown communities of New York, that hasn’t been able to stop him from buying endorsements from some of the nation’s most prominent Black Mayors. By touting the endorsements of Houston’s own Sylvester Turner, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (after a sizable donation), and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and flooding the television market with ads showing him with former President Barack Obama, he believes that he can pull the wool over the eyes of Black voters and bury his lifelong support of white supremacist policies. Derecka Purnell writes in The Guardian, “If this is what it takes to defeat Trump – supporting a scheming, racist, Islamophobic billionaire – then we will lose much more than an election in November.”
As far as LGBTQ rights and women’s rights are concerned, Bloomberg uses similar language to Donald Trump. While discussing the notorious “bathroom bills” meant to exclude Trans people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with, Bloomberg said it all boils down to a debate about “some man in a dress” being in a locker with someone’s daughter. Regarding women in the workplace, his past statements sound like they could have been made by the notorious “pussy-grabber” Trump. “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains,” said Bloomberg to one of his employees, “they’d go to a library instead of Bloomingdale’s.” According to GQ, some 64 women have brought sex discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits against Bloomberg and his organizations over the past decades.
While much attention has been focused on the authoritarian police state Black and Brown people were made to endure, the surveillance state that the Muslim community lived under has not been the subject of much focus. Bloomberg and the NYPD, undoubtedly with the help of other police forces, spied on seemingly every Muslim community from New York to New Jersey. In the words of former attorney and Daily Beast columnist Dean Obeidallah, “Under Bloomberg, beginning in 2003, undercover New York Police Department agents spied on Muslims where we ate, prayed, shopped and went to school… the NYPD would secretly videotape worshipers attending mosques, logging where Muslims wearing Islamic clothes ate meals and recording their lunch-counter conversations.” The NYPD was given power and authority to spy on Muslims, based on their faith alone, outside of New York City. Despite this tyrannical authoritarian policy of spying on the every move of American Muslims, the NYPD did not get a single lead. Bloomberg has never even bothered apologizing to the Muslims whose rights he violated. After all, this is a man with a deep suspicion of minorities and those he perceives as being non-white. And while Democrats denounce Trump’s blatant Islamophobia and his anti-Muslim travel ban, it’s not at all clear Bloomberg wouldn’t enact similar discriminatory policies.
The New Mayor who inflicted so much damage on Muslims, Black communities, Hispanic communities, women, LGBT people, poor people and working class families, is now trying to convince Democratic voters that he’s seen the error of these same policies that he was defending as recently as last year. He made a tepid apology for Stop & Frisk in a Black Church the day before he announced his run for the presidency. Is this timing a coincidence? Benjamin Dixon thinks not. In his words, “For Black and brown boys in New York, he’s not much better than Trump is.” Michael Bloomberg’s run for the Democratic nomination has exposed a very ugly truth about the Democratic Party. The fact that so many Democrats were so quick to align with Michael Bloomberg even after he said that all criminals are minorities shows that the Democratic Party as a whole never really had a problem with Donald Trump’s racism and bigotry in the first place, and it will quickly throw its most loyal voters under the bus for power. In the end, the 2020 presidential election could possibly come down to two misogynistic white supremacist oligarchs who have a profound hatred for the poor and working class, who believe that communities of color need to be controlled and brutalized by a militarized police force. This isn’t much of a choice at all.