HORIST: Can Bloomberg buy his way past stop-and-frisk?
Most pundits agree … a Democrat cannot win the Party nomination for President unless he or she gets the lion’s share of the black vote. So far, former Vice President Joe Biden can claim that prize.
If there was ever any validity to the argument that it takes a Black candidate to win the majority of the black vote, this election cycle has laid that bit of wisdom to rest. Biden maintains plurality support among blacks even against prominent black candidates, such as New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. California Senator Kamala Harris has already been whack-a-moled out of the race – and Booker and Patrick are struggling.
Recent polling suggests that issues more than skin color are motivating black voters. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg gets little support from the black community because of his handling of racial matters back home – including the replacement of a black police chief with a white guy.
Of course, Biden has had his problems with racial issues – most significantly his handling of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and his support of tough crime bills that flooded prisons with black inmates. It would appear, however, that his association with President Barack Obama mitigated that negative history.
Now cometh former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Even though he took office as a Republican, Bloomberg is, in many ways, the left-wing’s almost ideal candidate. I say “almost” because he is still one of those old white guys the left hates – unless the person is an outright socialist.
Bloomberg’s Achilles Heel in terms of the minority vote is “stop-and-frisk” – a policy he imposed on New York as a crime fighting measure. It appears to have worked. Arrests were up – mostly blacks — and crime was down.
Opposition, however, came from the unlikely combination of blacks and conservative civil libertarians — blacks because they were mostly the victims of the policy and conservatives because it clearly violated the Constitution. The problem was a lack of “probable cause.” Reducing crime by eliminating fundamental human rights is a no-brainer. Every dictator on earth does it.
Bloomberg’s problem with stop-and-frisk – unlike Biden’s crime bills – is that it has been carried forward to present days. On the eve of his campaign announcement, Bloomberg went before the cameras to issue a humbling – and perhaps humiliating – mea culpa. He admitted that he was wrong and that he had since learned better.
Unfortunately, Bloomberg had been vigorously defending the stop-and-frisk policy up to the day of his apology. It made his apology seem … shall we say … utterly insincere – a calculated flip-flop prompted by nothing more than Bloomberg’s late-blooming presidential ambitions.
Unlike Biden, who has a more contemporary history as Obama’s guy – and a credible argument that he is the continuation of the Obama legacy – Bloomberg can only sell future promises. “ Forget what I did and believe what I will do” appears to be the former mayor’s only option. But can he sell it?
That is where Bloomberg’s vast wealth comes into play. Keep in mind that this is a guy who will never appear on a debate stage because he will not meet any of the fundraising requirements. He is using his own money … period. Unless, he can get into double digits in major polls, he will not get the same level of media attention as the so-called “front-runners.”
This means unprecedented massive advertising. We have already seen the tip of that Bloomberg with his unprecedented $30-plus million ad-buy launching his campaign. For the next year, Bloomberg will appear on our television screens more than ambulance-chasing lawyer commercials.
This is likely to be especially true in inner-city minority communities. Advertising on black-oriented radio, television and print media is relatively cheap. To understand the potential impact, just image full-page Bloomberg ads in every black newspaper every week between now and election day. Image Bloomberg commercials on black radio and television hour-after-hour.
Bloomberg’s spending level will be unprecedented. We can rest assured of that. There is no telling how effective they will be at turning public opinion. We have no comparative history.
It has been said that in war and politics, you cannot win without a ground game. Many pundits are counting Bloomberg out on what they perceive to be a lack of a ground game. But … can he buy enough human resources support to build one? He has the money to do it.
I can offer somewhat of an example. In 1996, my firm was retained to get magazine publisher Steve Forbes on the presidential ballot in three states – and in three months. A task virtually impossible by all measures. In the end, we filed more signatures on more petitions than did his then-chief rivals Senators Bob Dole and Phil Gramm. Because of the money provided to the effort, were had sufficient financial resources to recruit more than 100 delegates and alternates, print up thousands of petitions and have them circulated by more than 300 paid workers. We ran more than 25 petition drives in Illinois alone.
When it was discovered that Forbes had failed to sign one of the documents necessary to get on the ballot in Illinois – and had a 24-hour deadline – we hired a private jet and flew to meet him in Kansas and back again. That takes money.
The point is … money can overcome a lot of problems in running a major ground game, and Bloomberg has more than enough. If he fails to connect with the American public – especially the black community – it will not be for lack of money and all that money can buy. His weakness may be that American voters do not like being bought by a Wall Street billionaire.
So, there ‘tis.