Monday, October 18, 2010

Bloomberg's National Delusion

Once again, this time in an Adam Lisberg column, the NY press corps is focusing on the giddy possibility of a Bloomberg third party run for president in 2010: "Mayor Bloomberg is ready to lead a national march to the middle. He's just waiting to see if anyone will follow.
Our mayor is steadily building his nationwide profile by presenting himself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative - the same formula that got him elected nine years ago."

This fantasy reminds us of Karl Marx's snarky put down of fellow socialist Proudhon; "He seeks synthesis, but all he achieves is composite error."  The idea that Mike Bloomberg could craft an independent presidential run based on the synthesis of social liberalism and economic conservatism founders on the facts of his governing style and substance-something that Lisberg should have made the effort to document with at least one gainsayer of this mayoral fantasy.

As we have said-in reaction to a NY Times speculative story in the same vein-the mayor is ill fit for the current national move back to right/center politics: "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.”

Bloomberg, in endorsing candidates from both parties, is trying to create a moderate centrist brand. But, in doing so, he mischaracterizes the source of the public's anger. It's not about paralysis and inefficiency; it's directed at governmental over reach-something that Mike Bloomberg is ill positioned to run against, given his continual need to intrude on the everyday lives of New Yorkers with one Nanny experiment after another.

The anger in the electorate isn't, in Ed Koch-like fashion, isn't about corruption and the failure to compromise-it is about ideological over reach and the growth of a national government that is unsupportable without massive increases in taxes and levies. How does Mike Bloomberg's record jibe with this critique? In his almost nine years the mayor has raised taxes and fess, increased the size of the public payroll-while all the time turning government into Big Brother.

And can we think of any elected official in the country who is more detached from the popular mood than Bloomberg/? Which is why, in the same elitist vein as as  many of our more liberal columnists, he sees the popular anger as an ephemeral temper tantrum-missing the incisive, targeted nature of the Tea Part assault. As we said earlier, "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.

But there is another glaring impediment to the Bloomberg pipe dream-who he is, and where he comes from. Part of the current populist anger-and it connects the Left as well as the Right-is directed at our financial elites; and the way, in the popular mind, in which the government and Wall Street have colluded. Bloomberg, as the staunchest defender of Big Capitol would, charitably, not be cast as a sympathetic national player in the current environment.

Lisberg also goes to a pollster who may not be best situated to accurately gauge the national angst: "His national voice dovetails nicely, though, with what pollsters say is a growing disgust in America with the two-party system - and a hunger for solutions instead of gridlock. "There's a marketplace for new movements, and not just movements of the right and left but for the center," said Democratic pollster Mark Penn, whose partner Douglas Schoen has worked with Bloomberg for years. One of their polls last week found 54% of likely voters in battleground districts believe a third party would be good for America."

This is what's known as an audition statement-what pollster, or political consultant, wouldn't salivate at participating in a billion dollar Bloomberg magical mystery tour? As if on cue: "The Tea Party is just the tip of the iceberg," countered Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who believes a legitimate third-party candidate will run for President in 2012."There is a silent majority of Americans starving for another alternative," McKinnon said. "Mike Bloomberg is the prototype of the kind of leader that could represent a third-party movement."

And, as far as solutions go, what about the Bloomberg educational miracle-built on a Potemkin Village of fraud and deception? Imagine the blow back from the voters when the opposition tells them how Bloomberg paid out millions of dollars to teachers and administrators based on fraudulent test scores-and then proceeded to successfully run for re-election based upon these fraudulent barometers of educational success?

Speaking of Bloomberg's educational record, isn't it also problematic on a center/right national stage, where folks are questioning the need for a federal department of education, to have a record of doubling the size of the education budget, and adding thousands of fully pensioned teachers, to get meager results at best?

But the Bloomberg effort to garner mayoral control, and to fully centralize the approach to school reform, is contrapuntal to another key feature of the national mood-concern with the size and scope of government: "Today's Rasmussen Reports illuminates some basic American attitudes that are antithetical to the Democrats: only 16 percent of Americans think the government spends our money wisely and fairly; 70 percent think it does not. (And these are all Americans, not likely voters.) Only 14 percent say the government has too little power and money, while 61 percent think the government already has too much power and money."

Mayor Mike, however, simply loves big government-and we have likened his governing philosophy to that of another NY mayor, one John V. Lindsay: "But beneath all of the phony mayoral posturing about how well the city balances its budget-eliding the high taxes and confiscatory regulations-is the stark reality that this Mini Me John Lindsay has exacerbated the city's fiscal problems by a reckless ballooning of the size of the municipal payroll-a situation that the ever vigilant Gelinas pointed out over a year and a half ago: "It's almost jaw-dropping that the mayor, faced with these projections and with no hope of a return to a bubble-era "normal" on Wall Street, has made things worse. City workers' salary growth, for example, is set to rise 13 percent between now and our drop-dead year - largely because the mayor late last year voluntarily entered into labor contracts granting hefty raises to both civilian and uniformed workers. The cost of higher pay adds nearly $1.7 billion to the drop-dead-year deficit."

And this is the guy that some people speculate is the one man to offer a unique middle way between ideological extremes? Please! Penn and McKinnon should stop pontificating with dark glasses and a tin cup.

One thing that Lisberg does not mention-and he does remark that the mayor's mosque position would jar mainstream American voters-is the issue of immigration. Here Bloomberg is way to the left of most of the electorate-as he is on so many of the so-called social issues. Given these extreme views, he won't ever be able to create a sense that he is really one of us.

So what really will hold him back, aside from all of the ideological incompatibility-is his haughty elite style; someone whose actions and words drip with the condescension of believing that he knows what's good for everyone. It is exactly what the voters are not looking for-especially when they want to get government off of their backs and out of their lives.

But we want to encourage Mike to go for it-but with one proviso. He needs to resign as mayor in order to make the run-and thus give us the two-fer we long for; a fantasy run for president, along with his swift exit from the city that he has bamboozled for all these years.

We'll give ourselves the last word. As we wrote last month: "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."