Monday, September 20, 2010

The Center Won't Hold

The NY Times once again is focusing in on Mike Bloomberg's national ambitions, however whimsical they might be. And Bloomberg, lacking any real ideological governing philosophy, is trying to tack upstream in this election cycle in order to mobilize the radical middle. In the process, his efforts border on the irrational and smack of political onanism: "In an election year when anger and mistrust have upended races across the country, toppling moderates and elevating white-hot partisans, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is trying to pull politics back to the middle, injecting himself into marquee contests and helping candidates fend off the Tea Party."

Could anyone be more detached from the national mood-or more clueless about what it means? Certainly, the Bloomberg effort underscores the mayor's isolation from the country's concerns and passions-not surprising for someone who spends most of his weekends at a Bermuda estate: "Mr. Bloomberg described the Tea Party movement as a fad, comparing it to the short-lived burst of support for Ross Perot in 1992. The mayor suggested that the fury it had unleashed was not a foundation for leadership. “Look, people are angry,” he said. “Their anger is understandable. Washington isn’t working. Government seems to be paralyzed and unable to solve all of our problems. Anger, however, is not a government strategy,” he said. “It’s not a way to govern.”

We can just hear Richard Dawson's Family Feud buzzer going off-ehhh, you're wrong Mike. First of all, the comparison to the Perot, "boomlet," is inapt-Ross was an eccentric political figure trying to harness the public's mood. The Tea Party-and doesn't all popular sentiment frighten the likes of Bloomberg?-is a mass movement with a particular set of grievances and positive prescriptions; and since the rising growth of government and taxes is right in the Tea Party cross hairs, we can see why the big government mayor would be alarmed. Bloomberg is in many ways the poster child for what the Tea Party folks are arguing against.

Just as Ed Koch misreads this mass mood-thinking that it's all about government corruption and dysfunction-so too does out of touch Mike. A corollary to the big government alarm that has been raised, is a growing fear of the regulatory reach of the public sector-to wit the virulent antagonism to national health care. This isn't an inchoate public anger, but Bloomberg isn't an isolated figure, and he comfortably fits into the liberal Eugene Robinson, "temper tantrum," critique of the voters' anger. (or, alternately, the voters are, "clueless." or "bewildered")

Bloomberg, of course, would miss this side of the Tea Party critique because he is the ubber-regulator and Nanny in chief; and is now going forward to restrict outdoor smoking. Talk about tacking against the political winds-this guy is, to mix a metaphor, pure salmon.

And Bloomberg's poli sci 101 view of the Tea Party misses the extent to which it is a movement of ideas designed to move the debate back to a more traditional American comfort zone-and away from the Obama democratic socialist perspective. All of this is over the little guy's head: "But during a week in which the Republican Party experienced searing defeats at the hands of Tea Party activists, it was Mr. Bloomberg’s remarks about the movement that were especially striking. “I think these boomlets come along when the public is dissatisfied,” he said. “There was a Ross Perot boomlet, there was a John McCain boomlet, there’s the Tea Party boomlet.” Mr. Bloomberg added, “It isn’t like people are going to gravitate towards one of these boomlet — splinter might not be quite the right word, since it might have other connotations — but the small nouveau parties.” Eventually, the mayor said, “people go back to the major parties.”
Underscoring the extent to which catatonia is the best way to describe the mayor's center stage lurching, is his endorsement of Harry Reid-someone who not only symbolizes dissatisfaction with Obama's leftward lurch, but also embodies, in his deal making over ObamaCare, the dysfunction of Washington politics. After all, Reid can't poll better than 45% in his own state! But what more can you say about a billionaire mayor who, searching for relevancy and bemoaning political dysfunction, does robocalls for Charlie Rangel?

And then there's the mayor's positions on immigration and the GZM-clearly to the left of not only the electorate, but President Obama as well. The failure of Bloomberg to recognize this is the height of solipsism-not to mention a patronizing sneering at his emotional lessers that is a habit of the haughty mayor. In this, Bloomberg fits right into the elite liberal Weltanschauung: "The leftists view their countrymen as in dire need of supervision — by elites like them, of course. Americans are not competent to make decisions on their own, and left to their own devices,  will run amok"
But in spite of our biting critique of all of this quixotic self absorption, we encourage Mike to keep it up: Run Mike Run. Even a billionaire like Bloomberg can't buy his way into national prominence and acceptance. We look forward to his comeuppance-and the awakening will be a rude one if he continues along this path with any real delusions of grandeur. But, after buying New Yorkers at a premium rate, who can blame the mayor for believing the H.L. Mencken observation that, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public."