In 2009, Michael Bloomberg spent $109 million — about $175 per vote — in order to win the New York City mayoral election.
His main opponent was Democrat William Thompson, who was outspent by more than 16 times.
Despite the fact that Bloomberg was an Independent rather than a Democrat, most of the Democratic Party decided to not really put up a fight. Bloomberg’s advocacy for charter schools and similar measures synced well with the establishment of the Democratic Party.
Center for American Progress chief John Podesta, who was Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and later the head of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, even endorsed Bloomberg.
“I have been privileged to work closely with two Presidents, and I know what kind of abilities a chief executive needs to succeed,” Podesta said. “Mike Bloomberg has those skills and the guts to put them to work ensuring that New York City is a national leader in fostering a cleaner environment, better schools, economic opportunity for all, affordable quality health care and reproductive rights.”
Bloomberg was also backed by the president of Planned Parenthood. When the Obama White House was asked about the race, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs affirmed that Obama supports his party, but didn’t even mention Thompson’s name. Instead, he gushed about Bloomberg. If that’s an endorsement, I’m not sure it’s one that Thompson actually wanted.
None of this stopped Clinton’s campaign from ragging on Vermont Senator Sanders’s Independent affiliation during the 2016 election. They strategically deployed that criticism when the primary moved to closed primary states, where Independent voters were barred from voting. It’s likely this attack will continue to be aired, as New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has already done so. It’s also likely that Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren will come under fire for switching from the GOP in 1996, a decision she made for ideological and not political reasons (she had no political aspirations at the time).
As we know, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is considering an Independent bid for the presidency. I don’t have any problem with doing that — it’d be great to have several competent general election candidates all representing different points of view. That’s much better than two candidates mostly dedicated to taking shots at eachhother; two parties promote polarization, which it’s my day job to ameliorate.
But he recently hired former Democratic strategist Bill Burton as a campaign adviser. In 2016, Burton was not much of a fan of Independents:
And let’s not forget how Republican Governors like New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Maryland’s Larry Hogan relied on Democratic power brokers actively supporting them or suppressing support for their progressive challengers.
Then we have other Democratic presidential contenders, like former Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke, who actively helped Republican lawmakers who were in peril of being defeated.
Again, I have no problem with Independents. I like them quite a bit, given that I am one. But the Democratic establishment seems to use party identification as a cynical cudgel, deployed against independents and non-Democrats to their left, when they’re happy to support them when they’re on the right.