Is Bloomberg vs. Sanders (vs. Trump) the 2020 Nightmare Scenario?
The Democratic presidential field remains one of the most wide-open races in recent political memory, but two of the top campaigns spent the weekend acting like it’s all come down to them. If they’re right, libertarians might want to find somewhere to hide for the next four years.
On Monday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg posted an online ad that criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.)—and his aggressive online supporters, the Bernie bros—for engaging in Trump-like campaign tactics. That ad came after days of stepped-up criticism from Sanders, who has called attention to Bloomberg’s support for stop-and-frisk and accused the former mayor of trying to buy the Democratic nomination.
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) February 17, 2020
Sanders responded by pointing out that Bloomberg has some bros of his own.
The increasingly nasty sniping between Sanders and Bloomberg suggests that each man sees the other as his biggest rival. Sanders is coming off strong if not convincing performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, while Bloomberg’s poll numbers are being carried skyward by a golden rocket of advertising. The socialist and the billionaire will square off in Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas—the first debate for which Bloomberg has qualified after his late entry into the race.
While many other outcomes remain possible, it’s easy to imagine Sanders consolidating the progressive lane and centrist Democrats lining up behind Bloomberg for lack of a better alternative (assuming former Vice President Joe Biden can’t pull out of his current nose-dive).
Facing the prospect of a second Trump term or Sanders’ promised revolution, some voters are understandably tempted to see Bloomberg as the moderate alternative. That, as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat warns, dangerously underestimates Bloomberg’s own authoritarian tendencies:
Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are naked on his Twitter feed, but Bloomberg’s imperial instincts, his indifference to limits on his power, are a conspicuous feature of his career. Trump jokes about running for a third term; Bloomberg actually managed it, bulldozing through the necessary legal changes. Trump tries to bully the F.B.I. and undermine civil liberties; Bloomberg ran New York as a miniature surveillance state. Trump has cowed the Republican Party with celebrity and bombast; Bloomberg has spent his political career buying organizations and politicians that might otherwise impede him. Trump blusters and bullies the press; Bloomberg literall
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