ELECTION 2020: Establishment Dems Can’t Say ‘No’ to Billionaires

Despite the party’s progressive platform, campaigns up and down the ticket ran away from anything that might discomfort the most comfortable, writes Sam Pizzigati. 

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2019. (Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Sam Pizzigati 

Have you heard the latest about the strategic political genius of billionaire Michael Bloomberg?

The political brilliance, you might skeptically ask, of Michael Bloomberg?

The same Michael Bloomberg who had to spend a record $99 per vote to get himself elected mayor of New York in 2001, another $112 per vote four years later to get himself re-elected, and even more —  $174 per vote — to win a third term?

The same Michael Bloomberg who sunk over $900 million into a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination and won only American Samoa before dropping out as “a billion-dollar flop”?

The same Michael Bloomberg who rushed into Florida this fall with a $100-million plan to get that state behind Joe Biden — and again flopped royally?

Yes, the strategic brilliance of that Michael Bloomberg, at least according to Democratic Party apparatchiks in Florida. Last week, they held a statewide conference call to proudly proclaim that their disappointing failure to carry Florida had actually been a brilliant political “feint” that, with Bloomberg’s help, had scared the Trump campaign into plowing resources into Florida — a state Trump figured to win handily — instead of the much more competitive upper Midwest.

Strange ‘Feint’

A brilliant “feint”? Really? Did former President Barack Obama know about the “feint” plan when he agreed to spend the election’s precious final days campaigning in Florida? Was having Obama, Biden’s best campaign surrogate, spend so much time in a we-know-we’re-going-to-lose state part of the ruse?

This whole “feint” notion appears little more than a face-saving exercise on the part of Democratic Party operatives who burned through millions of Bloomberg’s dollars. All quite understandable, of course. Political insiders within the Democratic Party — and that galaxy of pollsters, consultants, and media buyers who circle around them — have a vested personal interest in keeping billionaires like Bloomberg looking brilliant. They make big bucks helping billionaires realize their political fantasies.

Drive-In rally with President Barack Obama, Orlando, Florida, Oct. 27, 2020. (Joe Biden, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

But the problem here goes beyond a political insider class that’s engorging billionaire dollars and flattering billionaire egos. These political insiders appear to buy into the core assumption behind plutocracies everywhere: that our wealthiest have something truly special to offer. The super rich, that core idea goes, must be super smart. How else could they have become so rich? Brilliance, in effect, both explains the existence of our billionaires and justifies that existence.

Bloomberg’s foray into Florida, CNBC reports, actually had Democratic Party leaders in the state “privately becoming more convinced that they were going to defeat Trump.” How could they not? They had a brilliant billionaire on their side.

In Real Life

In real life, billionaires don’t bring any exceptional brilliance into the political process. They bring their billions. They bring outsized stashes of cash that can distort election outcomes and safeguard their fortunes. Witness the $200 million our tech giants spent this fall on a ballot initiative to kill protections for gig workers.

And these dollars, even worse, drop a suffocating ideological wet blanket over the campaigns that Democratic Party candidates run. In this fall’s presidential contest, for instance, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were formally running on a platform many analysts considered “the most progressive document to come out of a major national party in U.S.  history.” The ideas in that platform — everything from a $15 minimum wage and ending tax breaks for capital gains to making public colleges and universities “tuition-free” for most students — had come out of joint task forces that brought together the party’s left and moderate wings.

But the campaigns up and down the ticket essentially ran away from anything that might overly discomfort the nation’s most comfortable — and let Donald Trump and his pals pose as champions of average people against America’s overbearing elites. Trump came unnervingly close to winning. Many of his endangered pals did win.

Various national pundits are now savaging Republican movers and shakers for indulging Donald Trump, post-election, at his every narcissistic turn. But Democratic Party insiders remain largely free to indulge their super-rich benefactors. That has to change.

“Acquiescing to an unpopular and timid agenda that further entrenches the wealthy and the well-connected,” as Sen. Elizabeth Warren puts it, “will lead us to more division, more anger, more inequality and an even bigger hole to climb out of.

“Unless Biden unites the people against the oligarchs who dominate the nation,” adds Guardian analyst George Monbiot, “the people will remain divided against each other.”

Sam Pizzigati co-edits Inequality.org. His latest books include The Case for a Maximum Wage and The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970. Follow him at @Too_Much_Online.

This article is from Inequality.org.

The views expressed are solely those of the authors and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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7 comments for “ELECTION 2020: Establishment Dems Can’t Say ‘No’ to Billionaires

  1. Robert Emmett
    November 18, 2020 at 15:03

    …a platform many analysts considered “the most progressive document to come out of a major national party in U.S. history.”

    Duopoly & MediaCorp special: ratchet-up hysteria over what’s underwhelming while ignoring the crying needs of the people.

    This brings to mind something that has stuck with me that the late senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone, once said. When asked, what is the job of the people’s representatives in Congress, replied in effect: to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted. The ones in charge today have flipped that on its head and just coincidentally, I suppose, have become way more comfortable themselves the longer they stay in office.

  2. November 18, 2020 at 11:06

    It always makes sense that a person who has accumulated a lot of wealth will very often have such an hyperinflated opinion of himself in so many areas beyond that of money-grabbing. But it is when they do not listen to the advisors they hire who are (rarely) not mere yes men that they make their worst mistakes, and then have to bribe the media to cover it up.

  3. Ash
    November 18, 2020 at 03:05

    That’s BS from Monbiot at the end there — in what universe is he even going to attempt that?

  4. Rodney Ennis
    November 17, 2020 at 20:43

    “Acquiescing to an unpopular and timid agenda that further entrenches the wealthy and the well-connected, will lead us to more division, more anger, more inequality and an even bigger hole to climb out of.”
    Pretty rich coming from Sen. Warren, considering that she intentionally help split the progressive vote on behalf of the Democratic establishment, the wealthy, and the well-connected, in order to help advance the candidate of their choosing, Joe Biden.

  5. evelync
    November 17, 2020 at 18:20

    Sam Pizzigati, Thank you!
    The “genius” of Michael Bloomberg was not inventing or creating the remarkable Bloomberg machine whose innovative software was designed by one helluva gifted business partner. It revolutionized the brokerage business providing critical info on financial instruments and live markets to brokers, analysts, cashiers and anyone working in the brokerage business who wanted accurate timely information.
    Michael’s business “genius” was to rent those machines (originally $600 /month per monitor) instead of selling them. OK, he knows how to play a good game of monopoly….as you point out he really doesn’t make much sense on public policy….
    Yes attention must be brought to the influence of the billionaire class on running our government as though their billions means they have the brains to craft policies that are sustainable and stabilizing. Most of them don’t seem to care about that…
    The “best and the brightest” are notorious for “fulfilling” “policies” that serve the short term interests of the oligarchs. But that have been heading us towards a cliff on climate, nuclear war, bankruptcy…
    What’s most troubling to me is that our whole policy system is driven by the f….ed up short term demands of the billionaires. And those demands remain hidden behind a “national security” state that seems to serve the predators not the well being of the vast majority of people in this country or on the planet. It’s all a dangerous game especially for its victims. The perpetrators are never held to account or even “known”. Why not?
    The regime change wars; the coups; the destruction of the environment and the dislocation of millions of people. The domestic predatory policies too…
    The voters are irrelevant when Dick Cheney brings the heads of what remains of the Seven Sisters into the White House to “craft” foreign policy based on theft of natural resources. The intelligence services seem to answer to the imperialists while the voters are kept in the dark and threatened by the dreaded terms “national security” if they ask for a public discussion of policy.
    No one gets charged with the havoc they wreak. We don’t even know what havoc is planned till it’s reported to our grandchildren…
    Is this a democracy?

    • responseTwo
      November 18, 2020 at 12:01

      Well said. Was there ever a real democracy in any country.

    • David Otness
      November 18, 2020 at 12:37

      “Is this a democracy?” Not since Allen Dulles serially snapped the trap shut beginning in the 1940s war years (hot and cold wars) and then pulled off the ‘coming out’ party in Dallas, November 22 1963.

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