Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bloomberg is Back

On June 20 and again on June 26, I commented on the prospect of a Michael Bloomberg independent or “third party” candidacy in the 2008 Presidential election. The idea, back then, was that Bloomberg would run as a non-partisan or “bipartisan” centrist. I remarked that, to launch a centrist campaign, he’d need the fine eye of a jeweler or surgeon to find any space between the Republicans and the Democrats. I also suggested that the prospect was unlikely because the Democrats were likely to nominate Hillary Clinton or, if not her, some other Clintonite. The “vast right wing conspiracy” sees Clinton as a scheming she-devil. But, as plutocrats like Bloomberg understand, you can’t get more “centrist” than Hillary and Bill. For the past six months, a Bloomberg candidacy has attracted scant attention. Now the idea is being floated again. There are two reasons why:

-the least important of them is that there’s a chance that the Democrats won’t nominate a Clintonite. They might nominate John Edwards. But even Barack Obama may turn out to be less in the plutocrats’ pocket than he now seems to be. Or they may think, with some plausibility, that Obama, if he becomes the nominee, can’t win because, polling data notwithstanding, the country is not yet ready for a non-white President.

-the vastly more important reason, though, is that the Republicans have no candidate even remotely satisfactory to the plutocracy. Indeed, they have no candidate at all who isn’t outright laughable, except perhaps John McCain. But McCain is under-funded and his campaign is poorly staffed. He is also vulnerable on the Iraq War – being gung ho for it, but nevertheless objecting to torture and other Cheney/Bush violations of the rule of law. Thus the security hawks in the Republican Party are likely to gravitate towards Rudy G, who has no such scruples. So will the discredited but still powerful neo-cons. In addition, McCain is vulnerable on immigration. A Republican today has to appease the nativists the Republican Party has stirred up. McCain either can’t do that or won’t.

Therefore, our captains of finance and (what remains of) industry might just find themselves without an acceptable candidate. They should have realized this when they let the neo-cons, and the God squaders, and the free marketeers, and the nativists take over their party. But instead they relied too much on their useful idiots. The result was predictable: the inmates run the asylum. Hence, a Bloomberg candidacy might just be necessary. As with H. Ross Perot, the man has enough money to get the ball rolling himself. Then if Wall Street falls in behind him, voilà. It’s still a remote prospect, given the very undemocratic nature of our electoral system. But, if the caucus goers of Iowa conjure up the right conditions, it will become more plausible and more worrisome.

It is worrisome because it could hurt Democrats in search of “moderate” independents, increasing the likelihood, however slight, that, yet again, the Democrats might lose in November. Of course, it could also hurt the Republicans – siphoning off voters who would normally vote for their candidate. In any case, this is a complication no one needs. What we do need is a third party to the left of the Democrats, not one tucked into the narrow space between them and their duopolistic rivals. Should the Iowa caucus goers choose unwisely, and should their mistakes be reinforced in later primaries, this may be the only way to go. How a Bloomberg candidacy would affect that departure in American politics is anybody’s guess. But the stakes are high enough and the risks great enough that, for now, we should do all we can to see that it doesn’t come to that.