Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Michael Bloomberg (or other possible independent candidate) Effect

A recent op-ed in the New York Times by Thomas Friedman expresses my sentiment about the upcoming 2012 presidential election. As Friedman puts it, “This election has to be about those hard choices, smart investments and shared sacrifices…But, today, neither party is generating that mandate- talking seriously enough about the taxes that will have to be raised or the entitlement spending that will have to be cut to put us on sustainable footing, let alone offering an inspired vision of American renewal that might motivate such sacrifice.”
            Friedman believes that in order to generate a serious discussion about these key topics in the upcoming debates, a third party candidate like Michael Bloomberg is needed, and I agree.  I feel that with the looming debt that hangs over our heads, Bloomberg could be the guy to point out that neither the liberals nor the conservatives have a solid option.  Obama has deployed the Buffet Rule smoke screen and fails to talk about cuts, and Romney continues to pander to his base and oppose tax hikes.  As I posted in a previous blog regarding the Simpson Bowles plan, perhaps Bloomberg is the guy to embrace the plan as a sensible solution to our fiscal problems and give it some serious attention during the debates.
            As I believe Friedman rightly points out, if Bloomberg does decide to run, then his presence in the debates should have an effect of pulling Romney and Obama to the middle on certain issues, especially economic policy.  If that becomes the case, we may even see Congressmen up for election move increasingly toward the middle in order to take advantage of centrist sentiment that is being brought to light.  Without the presence of someone like Bloomberg, however, our country will likely get more of the same: polarized proposals that don’t really solve anything.


  1. Lately I've been stalking the Facebook pages for the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Socialist Party, and a few others. It's quite interesting to see where platforms can go when the party isn't limited to being a broad-based big-tent organization. The Socialists, I remember distinctly, have a platform section devoted specifically to expanding nationwide rail use. They also have platform statements against eating meat and wearing fur - when was the last time *that* popped up in a presidential debate?

    Of course, with a first-past the post system, there's probably only room for third parties in the local elections. North Carolina will be running a Libertarian candidate for governor, for example, as the Libertarian Party garnered a high enough percentage of the vote last time around. I would tend to agree with Friedman that the role of third parties would be to influence elections through strategic voting, and to put political pressure on members of the Big Two.

  2. Mayor Bloomberg would be the perfect candidate to run as a third party candidate. He has the money, the name recognition, and the experience to make a serious impact on the up coming election. However, I wonder how Bloomberg would significantly differ from Obama. One problem I have with Friedman's op-eds is that he fails to acknowledge that Obama, on an ideological level, agrees with the premise of a lot of stated ideas; but from a political feasibility perspective cannot implement them. Regardless of the party affiliation of the president, it will be congress who must pass these significant reforms. And in this current atmosphere, even with an independent in office, I do not foresee any change to this hyper-polarized legislature.

  3. Although it would be really interesting to see a poll asking people, for instance, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, or North Carolina, for their preferences when being able to choose among these three candidates, I do not really see the point that Bloomberg necessarily will pull both candidates further to the middle in economic issues. In case Bloomberg would be able to attract significant parts of the middle simply because he is regarded as "someone else" or a really promising alternative, could also result in even increasing the ideological gap between Republicans and Democrats, should they decide to beat Bloomberg by concentrating on their most loyal voters to win the crucial states. Furthermore, I think that Obama would have to worry more about Bloomberg than Romney, and the Congress-related issues with having an independent President have already been pointed out.

  4. While the presence of Bloomberg or a similar figure would probably lead to more sensible and intellectually-satisfying debates, I doubt the governance of either Obama or Romney would be significantly affected by Bloomberg's having run, particularly because the two parties in Congress would probably continue their old ways.
    I think there's a significant risk that if Bloomberg seemed to be making meaningful inroads with moderate voters, it would force Obama and Romney to focus even more on turning out their bases and ignoring the middle.
    This whole theory also depends on the premise that Bloomberg wouldn't catch the bug and start to pander and distort reality like the rest of them.