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Bloomberg God's Gift to the GOP?

December 31, 2007

From the beginning, God has been at the center of the Republican presidential race. And He has not been kind to the GOP or its would-be leaders. While John McCain back-tracked from his claim that "the most important thing is that I am a Christian", Rudy Giuliani left it to the priests to decide whether he is a good Catholic. A desperate Mitt Romney delivered a speech on faith in which he ejected Muslims and atheists from the American community. Even former minister Mike Huckabee is experiencing a backlash from his extremist agenda to "take this nation back for Christ."
How ironic, then, that a Republican Party facing electoral perdition at the polls in 2008 may now be the recipient of divine intervention. As the New York Times reports today, God's gift to the GOP may take the form of an independent presidential bid by the Jewish mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg.
After months of denials, Bloomberg is laying the groundwork for a White House run using the cover of a "national unity" campaign decrying the hyperpartisanship of both parties. (That politics of polarization, of course, is almost exclusively the handiwork of the GOP.)
But far from being the savior who will transcend partisan conflicts, Bloomberg is an insider's insider. A lifelong Democrat who by necessity joined the GOP to enable his initial run for mayor, Bloomberg spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention. As Glenn Greenwald's devastating assessment concludes, Bloomberg's quixotic quest would be nothing more than a $1 billion ego trip:

"A Bloomberg candidacy would have no purpose other than satisfy his bottomless personal lust for attention and bestow the wise old men threatening the country with his candidacy with some fleeting sense of rejuvenated relevance and wisdom. His political views are conventional in every way and he's little more than an establishment-enabling figurehead. The whole attraction to his candidacy has nothing to do with any issues or substance and everything to do with an empty addiction to vapid notions of Establishment harmony and a desire to exert control, whereby our Seriousness guardians devote themselves to a candidate for reasons largely unrelated to his policies or political views, thus proving themselves, as usual, to be the exact antithesis of actual seriousness."

But while Bloomberg's pending decision to head up the Vanity Party ticket in 2008 may have elements of the comic, it would be deadly serious for the Democrats.
Michael Bloomberg is neither Ross Perot nor Ralph Nader. In 1992, the populist billionaire Perot took votes from both parties, but may well have undone the reelection of George H.W. Bush by siphoning off disaffected "Reagan Democrats." In 2000, Nader was a grassroots movement candidate whose under-funded campaign sufficiently weakened Al Gore from the left so as to cost him Florida - and the White House.
If anything, Bloomberg may resemble John Anderson. The liberal Republican garnered over five million votes in 1980 and provided the margin of victory for Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter in several states including Wisconsin, Connecticut, South Carolina and even Massachusetts. (Anderson was not the deciding factor, given the scope of Reagan's landslide.) Bloomberg, who spent $69 million of his own fortune to win office in New York, wouldn't merely be Ralph Nader on steroids. His progressive positions on social issues combined with his ability to wage a 50 state media campaign could make him a boutique candidate for some so-called limousine liberals.
Unlike John Anderson, Bloomberg's billions could be enough to swing several too close to call states - perhaps Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Iowa - to the Republican nominee. Bloomberg's candidacy at worst could represent the prospect of eight more years of GOP rule, no doubt including the transformation of the Supreme Court for a generation.
2007 was not a good year for the Republican Party. 2008 is looking to be even worse. But for God's Own Party, salvation may come in the cramped form of Mike Bloomberg. As another Republican Abraham Lincoln once said, the "judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
UPDATE: In Times Square on New Year's Eve, Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed, "Look, I'm not running for President." Stay tuned for the Bloomberg honesty watch.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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