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21 Jun, 2018 16:02

‘Saving our democracy’ or saving the Democratic Party? Bloomberg throws $80 million into midterms

‘Saving our democracy’ or saving the Democratic Party? Bloomberg throws $80 million into midterms

Former mayor of New York City and billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg is throwing at least $80 million behind Democrat House candidates in November’s midterm elections. His goal: turn the House blue.

Bloomberg is the seventh-richest person in the US. He has traditionally donated to candidates from both parties, often favoring moderate Republicans. In 2016, however, he endorsed Hillary Clinton, and has aligned himself more closely with Democrats since President Trump’s election.

Calling House Republicans “feckless” for their failure to stand up to the Trump administration, Bloomberg said in a statement: “I’ve never much liked political parties, [but] this fall, I’m going to support Democrats in their efforts to win control of the House.”

Bloomberg leans left on several key issues for Democrats: gun control, immigration, and the environment. It is likely that he will focus his spending on races in moderate suburban districts, where Trump is already unpopular. His strategy will likely avoid rural, conservative districts, where his anti-gun, East-coast Democrat message would fall on deaf ears.

Democrats need 23 seats in November to retake the House. And as the owner of Bloomberg Media Group, the billionaire and philanthropist has a well-oiled communications machine ready to spread his message.

Over 300,000 businesses are leasing Bloomberg Terminals for access to financial information. Bloomberg also owns a wire service (Bloomberg News), global-reaching Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg Radio, and two magazines: the weekly Bloomberg Businessweek and the monthly Bloomberg Markets.

Bloomberg Foundation member and former Clinton strategist Howard Wolfson spelled out one prong of his boss’ strategy in a tweet this week: a PR assault against House Republicans who supported President Trump’s controversial immigration policy, a policy that saw almost 2,000 children detained and separated from their illegal immigrant parents at the Mexican border.

“We will make sure that voters in November remember which members of Congress allowed the President to separate children from their parents,” read a Wednesday tweet from Wolfson.

On Twitter, the #resistance praised Bloomberg for stepping in to “save our democracy.”

To others, a billionaire pumping in cash to swing an election is profoundly undemocratic, and Bloomberg’s donation is more about saving the Democratic Party than saving democracy.

If Bloomberg’s millions were to sway the House for the Democrats, it would likely be a Pyrrhic victory for the more progressive wing of the party. As mayor of New York City, Bloomberg defended Wall Street banks from accusations of greed and irresponsibility at the height of the recession, describing liberal criticism of Goldman Sachs as “ridiculous.”

His hardline approach to policing in New York City - where he favored stop-and-frisk policies that were deemed by a federal judge to violate the constitutional rights of minorities - could also alienate progressives in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ age.

Whatever the consequences, Bloomberg’s financial might gives Democrats a bulwark against massive spending by wealthy Republican donors like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers. To the non-progressive wing of the party, Bloomberg’s funding is a boost for establishment business-as-usual Democrats who reject the leftist excesses of the #resistance.

“He plays very well in the moderate suburbs where we need to win seats,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-New York) told the New York Times. “From my perspective, I want more pro-business, moderate Democrats in Congress next year.”

Five months out from the midterms, Democrats have a six-point lead on Republicans. Republicans held the advantage last month, but controversy around President Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy has seen that advantage dissolve.

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