Candidate business - GulfToday

Candidate business

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Michael Bloomberg has a major advantage over other Democratic hopefuls as he does not need to raise money to fund his campaign.

US businessman Michael Bloomberg’s potential entry into the Democratic Party’s race for the presidential nomination has created controversy and upset campaign managers of leading contenders. So far he has filled out the paperwork to stand in the Democratic primaries in the southern states of Alabama and Arkansas but has said he would not compete in four other bellwether states.

His move has elicited controversy for several reasons. He had threatened to declare his candidacy in 2008, 2012 and 2016 but then backed off. Bloomberg is a political chameleon. He has reverted to the Democratic Party, his original affiliation. He joined the Republican Party in 2000, served a term and a half as New York City’s mayor from 2001-2007 before formally leaving the Republican Party and running for a third time as an independent on the Republican ballot.

Bloomberg has a major advantage over the other Democratic hopefuls. He does not need to raise money to fund his campaign. His fortune has been estimated at $57 billion (Dhs209b), making him the ninth richest person in the US and 14th in the world. If he chooses, Bloomberg could also attract funds from fellow oligarchs in the top “1 per cent” which owns 40 per cent of the country’s wealth.

Bloomberg, a political moderate, is set to challenge the Democratic Party’s faltering front runner, Joe Biden, who is campaigning as a centrist. Biden has failed to raise sufficient funds for his campaign and has appealed to billionaires and millionaires to donate. Bloomberg could compete for funds as well as for political advantage.

Like Biden, he is, however, entering a race for the Democratic nomination at a time progressives and leftists dominate and have captured the imagination of young, Hispanic and African American voters. While both Biden and Bloomberg, seen as steady hands, contrast sharply with erratic Donald Trump, the current occupant of the White House, their campaign platforms reflect past policies adopted by both the main parties which have made them indistinguishable.

Trump has profited politically by deviating from the “norm” in both substance and style. Top flight Democratic challengers Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are trying to do the same by proposing major overhaul of the US tax structure and the educational, health and welfare sectors with the aim of reducing the country’s huge inequalities in wealth and privilege. Unfortunately for the majority of US citizens, older white middle and working class electors remain fearful of anything which smacks of “socialism,” even though they and their families might benefit from health-care-for-all at reasonable rates, lower costs of university education and inflation-proof pensions.

Born in 1942 into a modest family in Boston in the east coast state of Massachusetts, Michael Bloomberg attended John Hopkins University, graduating in 1964 with a BA degree in electrical engineering, and in 1966 from Harvard Business School with a MA in business administration. He began his career at a Wall Street investment bank before setting up a company providing real-time business and finance information to subscribing firms. His company became Bloomberg LP in 1987 and branched out into Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Message and Bloomberg Tradebook. While serving as New York City mayor, Bloomberg handed over his business interests to senior managers.

His record as New York mayor was generally positive. He imposed mandatory sentences for illegal possession of guns, introduced policies to fight global warming, banned smoking in public places and attempted to improve health care. He also turned the city’s $6b (Dhs22b) deficit into a $3b (Dhs11b) surplus by increasing property taxes while boosting spending on welfare programmes helping the poor.

On the negative side, he tried and failed to reform city schools and backed the New York police department’s random stop-and-frisk policy which unfairly targeted people of colour. In a New York Times opinion article, Charles M Blow warned African-American and Hispanic voters not to cast ballots for Bloomberg.

Blow explained that during Bloomberg’s tenure nearly 100,000 young men, 90 per cent of whom were black and brown suspected of carrying illegal weapons or drugs, were stopped and searched by police. Although 90 per cent were released without charge, the names of all those stopped were entered into a police database. Blow accuses Bloomberg of using “the fear factor” to get white New Yorkers to vote for him as he was keeping them safe from crime. This aggressive policy was eased after Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014; since then fewer than 10,000 stops and frisks have been performed and the crime rate has fallen.

Without the ballots of non-white minority voters — many of whom have been insulted and feel threatened by Trump — the Democrats will not win the 2020 presidential election.

On domestic affairs, Bloomberg is liberal on social issues but economically conservative. He favours stricter gun controls and funds Everytown for Gun Safety which has become the main opponent of the gun lobby. He seeks to combat climate change. He opposes wealth taxes but approves medical care for all citizens who are not covered by insurance. He is highly critical of the Trump administration’s immigration policy and takes the view that immigrants enrich the country through their work.

On foreign policy, Bloomberg subscribes to traditional Democratic Party positions, favouring engagement with Europe on a wide range of issues, including climate change, and outreach to the Pacific. On this region, he conforms to the usual line of US politicians. He supported the 2003 Iraq war but backed off after some time. A secular Jew who married a British Christian, he has contributed to pro-Israel organisations and policies. During Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2014, he flew on his private jet to Tel Aviv to protest the US ban on flights to Israel. He opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign to exert pressure on Israel to halt its harsh treatment of Palestinians.

Bloomberg enters a crowded race containing 17 other hopefuls where only the top five are realistic contenders. The rest have received three per cent or less in national polls. Bloomberg could become No.6 on the realistic list if Biden’s bid continues to fail. Democrats who did not vote in swing states which gave Trump his win in 2016 prefer a solid middle-of-the-road Democratic candidate.


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