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The Financial Express

Bloomberg factor in US Democratic electoral matrix

Muhammad Zamir   | Published: March 01, 2020 21:31:43


WARREN DOUBLES DOWN ON CRITICISING BLOOMBERG AS US DEMOCRATS SPRINT TO SUPER TUESDAY: Senator Bernie Sanders speaks as his rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination listen at the ninth Democratic 2020 US Presidential candidates debate at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas Nevada, US on February 19, 2020.       —Photo: Reuters WARREN DOUBLES DOWN ON CRITICISING BLOOMBERG AS US DEMOCRATS SPRINT TO SUPER TUESDAY: Senator Bernie Sanders speaks as his rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination listen at the ninth Democratic 2020 US Presidential candidates debate at the Paris Theater in Las Vegas Nevada, US on February 19, 2020.       —Photo: Reuters

The race to become the Democratic nominee for the coming 2020 Presidential election in the United States has been evolving over the past few months. A few weeks ago, there were 29 initial candidates. However, there are now only 8 (eight) persons on the list. The rest have dropped out. Those still in the running include - Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Tom Steyer. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has now joined the race. He has decided to run for the highest political job in the land just a few months after announcing he would watch 2020 from the sidelines. He has probably done so because after a quantitative analysis, his team realizes that the Democratic field, even at this relatively late date is still in a state of flux.

Anthony Zurcher of BB has significantly pointed out that right from the beginning candidate after candidate took turns taking shots at the newcomer to the contest. It has been described as the political equivalent of an incredibly lopsided tag-team wrestling match.

This unfolding scenario has created its own dimensions- given the upcoming electoral calendar for selecting the Democratic nominee for the November election. It may be noted as a point of reference that in the coming days between the last week of February and July the nomination process will include- two more Primaries in February in Nevada and South Carolina, the Super Tuesday on  March 03 when there will be more than a dozen contests including California and Texas, on 17 March Primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Subsequently, on 28 April, Primaries will be held in six States, including contests in New York and Pennsylvania. Later, on 5 May, a Primary will be held in Indiana. On  June 02, there will be Primaries in New Jersey (with 128 delegates on offer) and also in three other States, On June 06 there will be a Caucus in the Virgin Islands. On the conclusion of this matrix, the Democratic National Convention will be convened from July13 to 16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is clear that it will be quite a treadmill. 

Bloomberg, one of the richest men in the world, a polarising candidate in a crowded race, has already gained a lot of attention through massive advertisements in both the print as well as in the electronic media. Recent polling by NPR/PBS/Marist puts Mr Bloomberg in second place, behind Bernie Sanders, with 19 per cent of the Democratic vote.

However, as has been evidenced through the debate that took place on  February 19 in Las Vegas, Nevada, other candidates have already started focusing on his political past and some of his alleged comments about women, farmers and minorities. Mr. Bloomberg was on the stage there but he will appear on the ballots paper only from Super Tuesday -March  03, when some of the biggest states like California and Texas, hold their primary contests.

Analysts have noted the trend of the attack on Bloomberg by the Liberals (associated with the Democratic Party) over his past controversial policies during his tenure as Mayor, his billionaire status and for having switched party affiliations in the past, but at the same time have drawn attention to his having been a strong investor in many key causes for Democratic voters. In this context they are drawing attention to his having spent some US $100 million backing Democrats in the 2018 mid-term elections, which saw a record number of women voted to Congress. He has also apparently founded the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety group to lobby for gun control policies and given more than US $1 billion to public health causes and climate change initiatives.

One interesting feature has also emerged with regard to Bloomberg supporters. The media has reported that an analysis of informal polling data and rallies by Bloomberg's grassroots supporters indicate that they are essentially older in age and the Pro-Bloomberg groups on social media are run by older-than-middle-aged Americans. There may be some racial diversity within them, but little when it comes to age. A recent Quinnipiac poll has also found that most of the former Mayor's support came from voters aged 50 and up with an earning of over US $50,000 a year. In this context, most of his supporters also stress that he is a person who knows good governance. Otherwise, according to them, he could not have been the Mayor of New York City for three terms.

Nevertheless, as has been evidenced from the criticism being put forward by the other Democratic candidates, Bloomberg allowed the police to be slightly discriminatory in their dealings with the minority communities living in New York. This policy apparently allowed police to question and search individuals (about five million during his tenure of over a decade) for weapons or illegal items. However, most people stopped were innocent and most were black or Latino. Critics have also claimed that this "Stop, question and frisk" policy did not have a meaningful impact on crime. This led in 2013, to a federal judge ruling that the tactic was unconstitutional, violating the rights of minority residents.  Bloomberg has since apologised for the policy and "the impact it had on black and Latino communities".

There has also been an effort by some of the other Democratic candidates to draw attention to Bloomberg's supposed sexist comments he allegedly made in 1990, including reportedly telling a pregnant employee that she should "kill it". This he has denied under oath. He has also pointed out that he has elevated women working within his organisation irrespective of their colour or their origin.

This emergence of Bloomberg has generated a new dimension within the effort of those who want to oust President Trump from the White House in November, 2020.  

It is this aspect that is generating particular interest about identifying Bloomberg's key campaign issues. There is now consensus that the following will receive special focus if he is elected to the Presidency - (a) banning assault-style weapons and implementing better background checks for gun purchases; (b) initiating tuition-free two-year public college facility and debt-free four-year college facility for lowest income students; (c) cutting greenhouse gas emissions 50 per cent by 2030; (d) creating public health insurance option while expanding enrollment in Obamacare plans and (e) imposing new 5.0 per cent wealth tax on annual incomes of over US $5.0 million.

It may be noted here that in February the Pew Research Center carried out an analytical survey pertaining to supporters of the various Democratic Candidates. The survey indicated that Bloomberg's base was much less liberal than his 2020 rivals. Only 29 per cent described themselves as liberal with the majority saying they were moderate or conservative. It also revealed another interesting factor. Apparently, 79 per cent of Bloomberg's base said that they want a candidate who will work with Republicans and compromise on policies if need be. This last feeling has however created among the younger generation of Democrat voters who mostly do not believe in any form of compromise. This might eventually work against Bloomberg's nomination.

With the primaries in full swing, it is desperate times for many of the candidates. Recent debates have been proof of just how tense things are getting.

At this point one needs to also evaluate how the other candidates have progressed within the electoral dynamics. Critics agree that Biden appears to have failed to turn his high name recognition and ties to still-popular former President Barack Obama into electoral and fund-raising dominance. He has also been nagged with concerns about his age and endurance. Warren, normally a placid debater, facing sagging poll numbers and a poor result in New Hampshire, has gone on the attack against pretty much everyone, positioning herself as a compromise between the moderates and Sanders. Warren and Sanders are however facing questions about whether their progressive policies will receive suitable support in a general election. In addition, references are also being made about the age of Sanders and also about his health. Buttigieg on the other hand is being referred to as young and with little electoral experience. It is also being pointed out that he has yet to show that he can attract the kind of minority voters who make up a large chunk of the Democratic primary electorate.

One can conclude that in the end, the debates might be leaving the field quite muddled.

This factor has cast a shadow and has led a recent Economist/You/Gov poll to draw attention to the fact that 22 per cent of its respondents have said that they wished they had "more choices" than the Democrats currently running.

This scenario, according to some might have persuaded wealthy Bloomberg to enter the electoral race, but, most certainly, he also knows that he faces long odds. Bernie Sanders is emerging as his main opponent and rival within the Democratic matrix and this will also complicate matters for him. 

The ball game, on the other hand, on the part of the Republicans has gained in terms of support.  Trump with his acquittal after the impeachment hearings and also through his pro- Israeli approach to the solution of the dispute related to Palestine has garnered greater acceptability. There has also been movement forward in favor of Trump's stand regarding his tariff war with China and also because of his pursuit of transactional diplomacy related to Saudi Arabia and India. North Korea for a change is also not launching missiles. All of these factors are likely to influence voters in favor of the Republicans. 

Muhammad Zamir, a former Ambassador, is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance, can be reached at muhammadzamir0@gmail.com 

 

 

 

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