By Kevin Hall
As the Democratic Party establishment moves into what’s known technically as “freak-out mode” over the rise of Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders and his call for political revolution, or in reaction to Elizabeth “capitalist-to-the-bone” Warren’s plans to tax excess wealth to the bone, voter sensibilities—already bewildered by the sight of democracy swirling the drain in D.C.—are now being barraged by billionaire Mike “Stop and Frisk” Bloomberg’s $500-million-and-counting campaign to buy the presidency.
He has already purchased the services of sitting Fresno City Council Member Luis Chavez and former City Council Member Oliver Baines from the city’s southeast and southwest districts, respectively, where industrialization is exceeded only by marginalization. The next time you see either one of them making the rounds stopping and frisking for support, ask how much Bloomberg is paying and which local nonprofits are being encouraged to apply to the Bloomberg Philanthropies for grants.
The 12th richest man in the world with an estimated net value of $61.8 billion, the former three-term New York mayor—he rewrote the law to get that third term—is polling well among suburban, college educated, White Democrats drawn to his war chest of unlimited funds and reassured by slick ads of simplistic, reassuring, poll-tested messages and imagery around the theme of “Mike can get it done.”
He has done things. Bad things. Which is why he has been pouring money into communities of color across the country. At the peak of Mayor Stop-and-Frisk’s unconstitutional practice of having the police accost men of color at random on New York streets, more than 700,000 stops were made in a single year. Nearly 2,000 people were physically violated every day, their bodies and clothing groped and patted. Many have described it as humiliating and worse.
Following 9/11, Bloomberg initiated unconstitutional surveillance of Muslim communities and killed an entire chapter about the program from a report by the Center for American Progress, according to the New York Times. As Mehdi Hassan at The Intercept recently described it:
“Michael Bloomberg oversaw the mass warrantless, suspicionless surveillance of Muslim New Yorkers, as the New York Police Department ‘mapped’ where they prayed, ate, studied and worked.”
And he has never apologized. Yet he’s drawing endorsements from leaders in the African-American and Latino communities, the women’s movement, mayors, environmentalists, the list goes on and on; they’ve often been beneficiaries of Bloomberg’s noblesse oblige. Many more mute their criticisms, neutralized by his contributions. He has donated billions of dollars to a wide array of good causes, yet far less than he would have been required to pay under a Sanders or Warren-style tax system.
Accurately described as an “apex technocrat” by conservative commentator Saagar Enjeti on YouTube station The Hill’s Rising with Krystal and Saagar, back in the pre-Internet days of the early 1980s Bloomberg developed an intranet for Wall Street traders seeking to profit off instant market data of every imaginable type.
His eventual 8,000-plus “Bloomberg terminals” placed his company at the center of what proved to be the most profitable but environmentally destructive era in human history, culminating in the end of the Holocene. The passing of this 12,000-year period of climate stability is as insignificant to a planet on a billion-year time scale as the concerns of the average working family are to multi-billionaire Bloomberg. While donating tens of millions to shut down coal plants, he surely profited many times more off the accompanying methane and fracking boom.
But the party’s lead centrist candidates are all falling one by one, and largely to the same easily documented prejudices that Bloomberg has been trying to buy his way out of: the policing, prosecution and incarceration of poor people of color, with the most egregious cases being the treatment of Black men.
Republican operatives used Hillary Clinton’s indefensible descriptions of Black youth against her to great effect in 2016 with a series of damning TV ads targeting African-American voters. Many people understandably weren’t motivated enough to vote for Clinton or against Trump; they stayed home on Election Day.
While Black Lives Matter might not be trending, the trend of state violence against people of color from the inner city to the Mexican border is worsening. The people most harmed by status quo politics should be the ones who determine Democrats’ next presidential candidate: through their votes and those of their allies, by raising the issues directly with the candidates, and increased public demonstrations.
Joe “Barack” Biden, though popular with older Black voters, stumbled early and hard over his past collaboration with Southern segregationists while in Congress. Newcomer Pete Buttigieg has been hurt by his record of local tensions with the Black community; as mayor of South Bend, Ind., his record reads a lot like Fresno’s last two mayors, from impacted-community resources diverted for downtown redevelopment to unaddressed internal and external police department racism.
Their transgressions, based in failures of policy and governance, are harder to put a victim’s face to though many were adversely affected. Not so for former Minneapolis, Minn., district attorney Amy Klobuchar and the case of Myron Burrell. In the September candidates debate, she boasted of jailing the man convicted of killing 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards, but that conviction is proving to be yet another case of a Black child falsely convicted of murder, according to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now in mid-February.
Tried and sentenced as an adult while 16 years old, Burrell was sentenced to life. Now 33, he has rejected plea bargains that would free him because he will not confess to a crime he has always claimed he did not commit. Just as he would not confess at age 16 during an eight-hour interrogation without an attorney or parent present, though he asked 13 times for his mother who was in the next room asking to see him.
Klobuchar’s complicity in the prosecution has only been compounded by her failure to reopen the case—despite recanted testimony from paid jailhouse informants—and her boasting of its outcome throughout her political career, Goodman reported.
Again, these are the records that demonstrate a person’s character, their moral fiber and values. And it’s fodder for the attack ads that would be coming their way as a presidential nominee. With any luck, the primary process vets these issues in time and unsuitable candidates are rejected.
Kevin Hall hosts Climate Politics on KFCF 88.1 FM every second and fourth Friday, 5 p.m.–6 p.m. He tweets as @airfrezno and @sjvalleyclimate, coordinates an informal network of climate activists at www.valleyclimate.org and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for presentations and information.