How Michael Bloomberg is spending a fortune and driving Trump batty

How Michael Bloomberg is spending a fortune and driving Trump batty
PBS NewsHour

Let me preface this post by acknowledging that billionaires trying to purchase the Democratic nomination represent an affront to democracy. (According to FiveThirtyEight, Tom Steyer had spent $120 million on TV ads through the end of last week and his fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg had topped that number by shelling out $180 million. Meanwhile, all of the other Democrats combined had spent only $43 million.) And as a New Yorker, I disliked Bloomberg when he was a mayor who only really distinguished himself for his support of racially discriminatory policing. I don't like the guy.

But whether you love or loathe him, Bloomberg deserves some credit for vowing to spend whatever is required to defeat Donald Trump regardless of whether he is the eventual Democratic nominee. One advantage of incumbency is that you and your party  can accumulate a war chest and build out campaign infrastructure for years, while the out-party goes through the process of nominating a challenger. This typically gives them a head start--and Trump's team has reportedly created a digital juggernaut for 2020. But Bloomberg, whose shadow campaign consists of "hundreds of organizers in key battleground states and a robust digital operation, ready to be inherited by the party nominee," according to The New York Times, is evening that early playing field to a significant degree.

Part of Bloomberg's own strategy is to goad Trump into attacking him, in order to position himself as Trump's most dangerous antagonist. Trump's advisors have reportedly been trying hard to convince their boss that it's in his best interests to ignore Bloomberg and remain above the fray but Trump's narcissism makes that impossible. It's highly unlikely that he will be the nominee, and these efforts will probably work to another candidate's advantage in the end.

More significantly, Bloomberg's bottomless pockets allow him to blanket the airwaves with a line of attack that other candidates and the Democratic Party have so far failed to prosecute. While most of Trump's opposition have focused their fire on Trump's abuses of power and lack of fitness for the office, Bloomberg's team is going after him like an ordinary politician by highlighting all of the campaign promises that Trump has broken.

This is important work because Trump's re-election campaign is centered on the theme, "promises kept." The reality is that Trump has broken virtually every promise he made in 2016 aside from nominating conservative judges and pulling out of various treaties, and any Republican would have picked the same or similar judges thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

He's also going after other Trump claims that haven't been challenged aggressively, as with a recent ad highlighting Trump's disdain for his military advisors. That one was featured prominently on Fox and Friends. 

Bloomberg's massive ad campaign also offers the best chance for that message to puncture the conservative media bubble and expose some less stalwart Trump supporters to these criticisms for the first time. If you only consume Fox News, there's a good chance that you believe Trump is a shrewd, effectively leader who's making America great and deserves a second term. But while its programming offers a steady stream of pro-Trump propaganda, Fox News does not discriminate when it comes to ad dollars, and Bloomberg is investing heavily in the effort to communicate that Trump's presidency has been an abject failure, and that's true even if you applaud his bigotry.

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