With the Iowa Democratic caucuses and the New Hampshire Democratic primary behind us, one candidate appears to be rising in the polls faster than any other. Former New York City mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg has reached third in the average of national polls and second in betting odds calculated by RealClearPolitics.
But despite the numbers, Bloomberg doesn’t have a mass grassroots movement behind him propelling him into legitimacy. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite. Bloomberg, an illegitimate candidate by my belief, has spent more than $350 million on his campaign in an attempt to simply buy the election.
This means most of Bloomberg’s staying power comes from self-funding, an archaic concept that should be done away with in exchange for public financing. Similarly to how candidates raise funds from shady sources, such as corporations, the military industrial complex, the fossil fuel industry and the pharmaceutical industry, Bloomberg has made his fortune through Wall Street. One shouldn’t trust an executive from ExxonMobil to regulate the fossil fuel industry. And in the same way, we shouldn’t trust a billionaire Wall Street investor to regulate Wall Street and tax billionaires. We already have an inept and corrupt Congress filled with representatives in name only who simply bend to their oligarchic donors. We don’t need another president of equal illegitimacy.
Imagine if this were any other country. Suppose a Russian billionaire spent hundreds of millions of dollars to become president. We would rightly label them as an oligarch. But when billionaires do that at home, they’re treated as legitimate simply for having vast amounts of money. Furthermore, the United States backed a coup of Evo Morales in Bolivia last November. The United States claims to be concerned about corruption and fair elections, when in actuality it has a history of overthrowing democratically elected governments for political and capital interests. Instead of toppling foreign governments, the United States should look at the corruption, bribery and institutional problems of Congress and the entire American electoral system.
This includes the corruption of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The Democratic National Committee sets the rules for debates of presidential candidates. Traditionally, the DNC has both a fundraising and polling threshold for candidates to be on the debate stage. However, because of recent rule changes, the fundraising threshold has been dropped, allowing Bloomberg to join other candidates on the debate stage. Following this announcement, The Gravel Institute released audio from a phone call between the DNC and the Mike Gravel presidential campaign. At the time of the recording, the Gravel campaign was requesting that the DNC recognize that he reached the unique donor threshold needed to qualify him for the debate stage, but it was not approved by the DNC. During the call, the DNC claimed to be neutral and could not change the rules to benefit any one candidate. But now, they have done that exact thing. The DNC dropped the fundraising threshold, and if it weren’t for that decision, Bloomberg would not be admitted into the debates. The fact the DNC made this decision after Bloomberg donated more than $300,000 last November to the committee demonstrates the corruption in Washington and the failure of our election process.
National media has also been complicit in the Bloomberg campaign. On MSNBC and CNN, Bloomberg has been treated with kid gloves, treated as a top-tier candidate since he jumped in the race simply because he is extremely wealthy. Pundits on cable news treat Bloomberg with more legitimacy than Bernie Sanders despite the fact Sanders is and has been at the top of the pack for months and has out-raised every other candidate. Chris Matthews, a political commentator on MSNBC, is the perfect example of this. On numerous occasions, Matthews has given praise to right-wing Democrats, such as Bloomberg, while bashing Sanders and conflating his ideology to that of the Soviet Union and totalitarianism. More broadly, Bloomberg hasn’t been properly questioned on his past support and implementation of stop-and-frisk, his past helping of Republican candidates against Democrats or why he skipped the first few caucuses and primaries. Instead, the media is helping manufacture the Bloomberg movement with fluff pieces and favorable, uncritical coverage.
Bloomberg is no doubt rising in the polls. But it’s not because he has been knocking on doors, talking with people and thinking about policies to help others. Bloomberg wants to be president simply to be president. His polling is evidence of just how impactful millions of dollars of ad buys can have on a campaign. Money buys elections. And with the help of the DNC and the media, Bloomberg is surging. “Democratic” elections won with overwhelming wealth as opposed to the issues are neither democratic nor elections. Dictators never forfeit a dictatorship. Businesspeople never forfeit a business. Oligarchs will never forfeit the oligarchy.
Seth Gully is a sophomore triple-majoring in philosophy, politics and law, economics and French.