Wednesday, June 20, 2007The press is suffering from yet another frenzy about a potential Presidential aspirant - Michael Bloomberg. In case you've lost track, that list now includes Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and Al Gore, as well as Bloomberg. I know that journalists are desperate for an election of operatic complexity (it saves them from having to get bored, you see), but this is ridiculous. And by the way, is every politician in New York going to be running for President before 2007 is over? Is Mario Cuomo next?
Yglesias and Skinner have some good analysis on how a Bloomberg candidacy might play out. There's also some reasonable arguments that he would hurt the Republicans more, despite his moderate position on issues. All very worth reading.
What I want to focus on is not Bloomberg the candidate - he's just the latest flavor. While I detest Bloomberg, it's those supporting the possibility of a Bloomberg I think are truly worthy of scorn. The fatuous search for a third-party is not just the product of David Broder's midnight fantasies or the buffoonish ravings of a cabal of Hollywood dilettantes (i.e. "Unity08"). The desire for a third party is rooted mainly in the upper classes of American life - people who are socially tolerant, internationally myopic, and economically comfortable. These elites view the two major parties with disdain not just because the professional classes are accustomed to a nose-eye view of others, but because they believe that neither party truly represents their interests. The Democrats are too interested in the disadvantaged, and the Republicans too theocratic. So they look around every four years for someone who truly embodies their special, unique, privileged, and of course superior desires. After all, America belongs to them, right?
This is all hooey, of course. In reality the leadership of both parties is dominated by the professional classes, their leadership stuffed with morally inert quasi-imperalist free traders who make occasional nods to their respective bases (not that I will name any names). The reality of American politics is that there has indeed been a vital center - of incrementally more restrictive social policy, backhanded colonialism, and the concentration of wealth. Since the elites' checkbooks are fuller than ever, their sons don't fight in wars, and their daughters can get abortions, they are comfortable with Republican rule. Incrementalist Democrats are welcome as well, as long as they don't tinker with corporate profits and aren't peaceniks.
The possibility of populist rebellions against this D.C. elite in both parties - in the form of anti-immigration on the right or opposition to Iraq on the left, appears to have the beltway mandarins concerned, which explains their turgid moanings for a self-involved mediocrity like Bloomberg. It's a waste of time and limited (at best) to a gutter vote of about 10%, but it might happen. If America's professed leaders have demonstrated anything in the last decade, it's that they are entirely unacquainted with reality.
(cross-posted at Daily Kos)