Chicago’s Bobby Rush and San Francisco’s London Breed have sold themselves to super-plutocrat Michael Bloomberg, the worst stop-and-frisker in history.
Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign should be a political deal breaker for black people in this country. The man who terrorized 700,000 mostly black New Yorkers with the NYPD stop and frisk policy should not be under serious consideration. Lest we forget, as mayor of New York City he also refused to pay the men known as the Central Park Five any compensation for their wrongful convictions.
But instead of opposition we see capitulation. Congressman Bobby Rush has endorsed him. So has San Francisco mayor London Breed. Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot is testing the waters when she says she is “considering” an endorsement.
While these seals of approval are disconcerting, they are not really surprising. Bloomberg is no novice at politics or at using his money to gain both silence and support. The man with an estimated $55 billion net worth has lots of experience buying people off. He did it to Al Sharpton, whose arm didn’t need twisting after money from Bloomberg LP flowed into his National Action Network. Bloomberg used money and influence with the New York City media to undo term limits approved by the voters and give himself and other city officials four more years in office.
Bloomberg knows what motivates black people’s political activity. He was smart enough to apologize for the stop and frisk policies that ruined people’s lives. He was shrewd enough to know that calling his $70 billion bribe the Greenwood Initiative , and announcing it in the place where a black community was destroyed by racist mobs. Bloomberg knew he would get buy-in from those who had already showed a willingness to sell out.
The black misleadership class of compromised and callow politicians were tailor-made for this onslaught of Bloomberg’s cash. These mayors, congresspersons and state legislators play a dubious role in our system. They give cover to the powerful while giving lip service to the people. The end result is a political system that gives us nothing that we need or want, even when Democrats are in office.
Every four years Bloomberg toyed with the idea of running for president but he didn’t throw his hat into the ring until now. In 2020 he was motivated not by a desire to be president himself, but by the need to stop Bernie Sanders should he gain momentum in the early primaries and caucuses. Bloomberg has correctly concluded that he can use his money to muddy the waters if Democratic Party voters dare to think of their own needs and not those of the billionaires and their errand boys and girls.
But the disgust at the surrender cannot be overstated. The fact that Michael Bloomberg can still set foot in black churches is proof of the degree of rot in black politics. We certainly have black politicians, but our politics have been ground into the dirt by decades of right-wing reaction and the implosion of the once progressive black leadership. Of course, Bloomberg isn’t the first person to use money to buy influence and votes. The dismal state of the once progressive bastion that was black politics is proof that money talks.
The Democratic Party trap has disfigured the historical black consensus long enough. It is time to jettison Bloomberg and the lackeys who love him. Not only is the Greenwood Initiative a disgraceful effort to pimp our history, but its promise of creating black owned businesses is a throwback to the days when black capitalism was still considered viable. He is forced to take action because the very premise of capitalism is being called into question. Instead of leading the way at this historic juncture, some black politicians are making common cause with one of the billionaire criminals who have created so much suffering.
Bloomberg shouldn’t be praised when he makes an obvious statement such as, “My story might have turned out differently if I had been born black.” He should be called to account. He has jumped in the race to save the Democratic Party from turning even slightly to the left. He unretired himself when he realized that millions of people are serious about wanting change. He and the rest of the one-percent class are determined to prevent even a small resuscitation of the welfare state in this country.
The 2020 election year is an opportunity for black people to realize their power. Bloomberg’s need for black support is proof that our votes will determine who gets the Democratic Party nomination. Instead of standing up, too many of us sit back and wait to see who will be designated as most electable and most likely to defeat Donald Trump. This passivity must end. We should help determine who the nominee will be instead of waiting for others to make a decision that could end up creating Trump 2.0.
We don’t have to follow Bobby Rush or London Breed. Every black Bloomberg supporter is lined up for a ride on the gravy train. They are working on behalf of the unscrupulous man whose goal was to get black people out of New York and make that city “a luxury product,” as he famously said.
Democracy itself is now a luxury product. It diminishes over time and every appearance of a super wealthy candidate pulls the plug faster. Just say no to Bloomberg and to all of his black supporters.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at patreon.com/margaretkimberley and she regularly posts on Twitter @freedomrideblog. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.