A History of Michael Bloomberg’s Political Ambitions

Revisiting one of America’s richest businessmen and former democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.

Michael Bloomberg is not particularly new to the world of politics. The founder of the a billion-dollar financial data company first pursued his political interests in 2000 by self-financing his victorious bid to become mayor of New York City. 

In the midst of the global financial crisis back in 2008, Bloomberg, then-mayor of New York City, realized that the end of his second, and what should have been the final, term of holding mayoral office was nearing. However, taking advantage of the financial upheavals within the city, Bloomberg announced that he would challenge the city’s term limits, thereby running for a third term as mayor. 

New York City had a notoriously strict two-term limit for elected officials–a system with overwhelming support from New Yorkers. There had been two attempts prior to Bloomberg’s to repeal and reform the policy in 1996 and 2002: the former fought to grant  lawmakers only 8 years of service instead of 12, and the latter prevented the rather popular Rudy Giulani from running a third term amid the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

Citing his business experience and leadership qualities as his qualifications to help the city persist through the economic upheavals, Bloomberg presented a revision of the term limit laws that would ultimately enable him, the five borough presidents, and the 51 city council members eligible to run for three terms. 

Bloomberg knew better and avoided introducing this proposal to the populace. Instead, he opted to take on a backdoor approach in which he would change the law through legislation in City Council, coincidentally chaired by his longtime friend, Simcha Felder. During his final weeks as mayor, Bloomberg worked to gather support from the rest of the Council members, business leaders, and newspaper editorial boards for his proposal. Bloomberg’s political maneuvering carried great political risk and eventually exposed his efforts to manipulate a core aspect of municipal politics with his wealth. Bloomberg’s proposal was later passed 29-22 by the Council.

Bloomberg’s third-term mayoral campaign certainly strengthens the idea that a porous boundary exists between financial wealth and political power. However, his short yet humiliating presidential campaign suggests otherwise. According to the Atlantic, “Bloomberg spent half a million dollars in the span of 16 weeks, and dropped out less than 12 hours after polls closed on Super Tuesday.” 

Money, sure, allows one to invest a quarter of a billion dollars to flood advertisements in Super Tuesday states and hold fully-catered private events reserved for supporters. Ultimately, Bloomberg’s rather egotistical and stubborn presence throughout most of the crucial debates failed to resonate with the American people. At the end of the day, the only distinguishing factor between Bloomberg and his opponents was money that turned out to be futile. 

With his strong record as New York City mayor and his recent efforts to curb gun violence and climate change allowed him to rise in the polls–that is until Bloomberg set foot on the debate stage in the Las Vegas Democratic Debate. It wasn’t only this single debat that made Bloomberg’s lack of charisma and appealing speech delivery patent. His other debate performances after the Las Vegas Debate were quite disappointing as he failed to effectively respond to his opponents’ questions and displayed a rather arrogant and aloof stage presence. 

Perhaps, Michael Bloomberg’s failed Democratic presidential campaign is a harbinger for the fall of plutocracy, demonstrating that wealth is no longer directly proportional to political capital–at least not to the extent it once was.