Why This Progressive Likes Mike.

Steve Villano
Feb 11 · 6 min read
Mike Bloomberg’s Napa, CA office.

Amateur hour is over.

If the chaos of the Iowa Caucuses and Trump’s vicious “victory” lap and illegal, revenge-porn firing of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman proved anything, it’s that it’s time for the novelty candidates and the ideologues to get out of the way. Nothing is more important than removing the sociopath from the White House. Nothing.

It’s why as a progressive Democrat with 50 years and about as many left-wing candidates under my belt as bonafides, I’m backing Mike Bloomberg and working hard for him to do well in the California Democratic Primary on March 3, with it’s motherlode of 495 Delegates, or 25% of the total needed to secure the Presidential nomination.

As a political activist who came of age in the ‘60’s in the anti-Vietnam War movement and lived on the urgency of issues and ideology in each election, in this election there is only one imperative: Beating Trump. Ideology is irrelevant in this death struggle for Democracy. Beating Trump is all that matters. Everything else is distraction.

In 1969, I was one of a nucleus of former Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy supporters who overcame our seemingly insurmountable differences in the aftermath of the election of the noxious Richard Nixon in 1968, and formed the New Democratic Coalition. We were Reformers, and our express purpose was pushing the Democratic party to the left, on issues that ranged from expanding Medicare for all, to ending the War in Vietnam, to enacting strict gun controls in the year following the assassinations by gun violence of RFK and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some of my early colleagues in the NDC (which Mario Cuomo, who was not a member, affectionately named, “November Don’t Count” because of our ideological insistence) included Bella Abzug, Paul O’Dwyer, Congressman Jerry Nadler, Ed Koch (when he was still a liberal), and many of the leaders of the Women’s Strike for Peace, like Cora Weiss and Sarah Kovner. We worked with progressives of passion and hope, who rewrote American history like Allard Lowenstein, Senator Barbara Mikulski, US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Senator Paul Wellstone, and the first, and only, African-American Mayor in NYC’s history, David Dinkins.

We campaigned for every progressive Presidential candidate from George McGovern to Mo Udall; from Fred Harris to Teddy Kennedy, and Jesse Jackson to Barack Obama. We fought for more sweeping Voting Rights and Registration Laws, tough gun control legislation, compassionate welfare reform, more funding for public education, collective bargaining rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights and affirmative action programs. We won, and lost, many policy battles, and elections. We always got up the next day, picked ourselves up, dusted off our bruises, and started anew — never giving up nor giving in; never surrendering. We had purpose and decency on our side, and, the nobility of our causes was what propelled us.

A few years later we learned to meld our progressive ideals with pragmatism. I worked with Mario Cuomo for nearly a decade when he was Governor of New York, and we fearlessly — and successfully — took on Ronald Reagan in the battle over State & Local Tax deductions (SALT), and waged a seismic struggle to shut down the unsafe Shoreham Nuclear Power plant. With tenacity and political savvy, we won both battles against overwhelming odds and enormous political and financial power. We had learned how to mesh our progressive beliefs with Cuomo’s pragmatic, respect-for-the-law, high-integrity approach to governing and we uplifted millions of lives in the process. I saw a similar strain of progressive pragmatism in Bloomberg.

I was living in New York when Mike was first elected Mayor of NYC in the awful aftermath of the 9–11 attacks on the World Trade Center, which killed nearly 3,000 of my fellow New Yorkers, and left the rest of us with varying degrees of traumatic stress. Undaunted and upbeat, Bloomberg took control of a City still reeling from the unimaginable, with many of us unable to get past the hundreds of “missing” photos of mostly bright young people, pinned to the mournful walls of St. Vincent’s Hospital. Mayor Mike carried our suffering City on his strong shoulders for months, while Donald Trump, slinking toward insufferability, bragged that his building at 40 Wall Street was now, not only, the tallest in New York (with the World Trade Center in cinders) but also eligible for $150,000 of special federal financial assistance from a 9/11 relief fund. Trump was shameless and soulless then, too, in our nation’s darkest hour.

It was Bloomberg, who, living around the corner from me, took the subway to work instead of a limo, buoying our spirits each day, and lifting 8,000,000 New Yorkers out of the darkness of post-9/11 despair, with his indefatigable attitude that anything was still possible for a resilient City and its people. It was Bloomberg who regularly met with Black community leaders and civil rights organizations after they had been deliberately excluded from New York’s City Hall for the entire eight ugly years of intentional racial division during Rudy Giuliani’s mayoralty. And it was Bloomberg, who, while still a Republican, opposed President George W. Bush’s nomination of John Roberts as Chief Justice, believing that Roberts was not committed to upholding Roe v. Wade.

The biggest knock against Mike Bloomberg by many Democratic Presidential candidates this year is that the billionaire is buying the nomination with his money. It’s an odd charge, since not one of my fellow Democrats complained when Bloomberg spent $110 million of his own money in 2018 to help elect 21 Democratic candidates, flipping the House of Representatives from red to blue and making Nancy Pelosi Speaker. No one, except the NRA, had anything negative to say when Bloomberg contributed over $200 million to highly effective gun-control and gun-safety efforts around the country.

Not one Democratic Presidential candidate has criticized Mike’s motivation to spend hundreds of millions of dollars — perhaps billions, to not only Hold the House and Flip the Senate in 2020 — but to build grassroots organizations and keep 500 paid staff members in place around the country between now and November 3, to elect ANY Democrat over Donald Trump.

I don’t hear my fellow Progressives complaining that Bloomberg is drawing from his vast expertise in technology and spending whatever it takes to build an on-line presence to wipe out the advantage that Trump, his Russian operatives, and Right Wing trolls have over us on Facebook, Twitter and all social media.

I don’t buy the lament by some of my fellow Lefties that “no one becomes a billionaire without exploiting workers.” This is not the 1890’s or the 1930’s. We aren’t talking about fortunes being made on the backs of railroad workers as the Vanderbilt’s did, or, like the Rockefellers, off the sweat of oil-field workers, at the expense of the environment. We’re not even mentioning the fake, mini-fortune made by Fred Trump and Son by shaking down middle-income renters, and playing three-card monty with taxpayer money from federal, state or City housing programs.

The high-tech fortunes of Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg fall into an entirely different sphere, delivering far more value to society than they extract from it. I doubt if anyone would seriously argue that Gates shouldn’t contribute billions of dollars to fighting HIV/AIDS and malnutrition around the world, because his money came from some undefined “exploitation,” or that Bloomberg is wrong to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to Johns Hopkins’ School of Public Health or to fighting gun violence.

Over the past several years, I’ve donated money to moderate and progressive Presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as to Democratic Senate candidates in key states I believe we can win in 2020. My contributions have always reflected my ideals and fundamental beliefs in justice, equality and the Rule of Law.

Those ideals, and not ideology, are more urgent to follow in this election, than ever before. Hair-splitting purity of political belief needs to be set aside for the immediate and practical reality of preserving our Democracy. There is one unifying imperative this year: Beating Donald Trump.

The best candidate to do that is Mike Bloomberg, and if he wants to spend half of his $60 billion fortune to do that, and bring along a Democratic Senate, God bless him.

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