If you see Mayor Michael Bloomberg on the street on the No. 4 train in the next week or two, do offer him a cup of cocoa and an hour or two of your time, to listen. He is sad. Neither of the presidential candidates have had the courage, the will, the determination to stick it to their entire coalitions of supporters in exchange for the endorsement of the Mayor of New York City.
He gives each of them a checklist of competing priorities, and what do they do? They disagree with some of them. Mitt Romney will not endorse same-sex marriage; President Obama refuses to cease his domestic reconstruction of the Soviet Union. Neither will ban guns. What’s a billionaire 22 times over left to do but throw change at people like Scott Brown and otherwise whine to the New York Times about how he can’t get what he wants?
The fact that campaigns spend so much time calling upon the mayor at his 100-millionth-floor lair atop New York City, or inviting him to lunch at the White House, or golfing with him on the Vineyard, is bizarre, but wholly unsurprising. This, the prospect of a Michael Bloomberg endorsement, is the sort of thing—the pinnacle of things!—that wealthy donors, enbubbled advisors, and media dingbats would consider a “game-changer,” pure electoral college jackpot. Remember how then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel used to spend more than 0% of his limited time lobbying for approval from David Brooks, a Bethesda newspaper columnist that no one—even David Brooks—ever listens to? The situation with Bloomberg is like that, exactly like that, especially in how the approval is never won.
How is Obama expected to reason with a man who, as he told the New York Times this weekend, believes Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren intends to “close the banks and get rid of corporate profits, and we’d all bring socialism back, or the U.S.S.R.?” Get rid of profits, add socialism, the U.S.S.R.—you know, some mix-and-match basket of those things. Of course, Mr. Obama is a touch to the right of Elizabeth Warren, so perhaps Mr. Bloomberg figures he’d compromise with a Democratic Senate for a more modest seizure of the means of production.
Even in the areas where Mr. Bloomberg agrees with the president—social issues—his stubborn side prevents him from offering credit. “Let’s get serious here,” the mayor told the Times about Mr. Obama’s announcement in support of same-sex marriage, “it was Joe Biden that forced that issue.” This is how people who don’t understand national politics think, despite their reputations as centrist political genius superhealers. While the White House has confessed that Vice President Joe Biden’s words of support for same-sex marriage expedited Mr. Obama’s planned rollout, there was, in fact, a planned rollout. Presidents don’t change their platforms on major issues solely because the Veep runs his mouth on a teevee chat show. They do it because of ideological shifts within their coalitions.
Mr. Bloomberg doesn’t like Mr. Obama because he’s placed light restrictions on large banks that help New York City balance its budget when they inflate to ungodly proportions in fake-good times. That’s his prerogative. What would it cost to procure the endorsement of this one man, who’s most known nationally right now as the jerk who won’t let hardworking folk purchase big-ass cups of soda pop? Too much, for very little.
Mr. Bloomberg sounds like a guy who really, really wants to endorse Mitt Romney, doesn’t he? He likes that Mitt Romney is rich. He made a lot of money doing whatever in the financial sector—Mr. Bloomberg loves this. But Mr. Romney won’t support gun control or action against climate change, because those are directly against what his coalition supports, so, yeah, no Bloomberg endorsement there, and who cares about this guy anyway?
The Mayor is, of course, welcome to not make an endorsement. But to whine about how neither candidate supports his full menu of policy preferences is insufferable. Not many voters out there are voting because their preferences are exactly in line with one candidate or the other. They prioritize, depending on what’s most important to them at the time. It’s part of being in a coalition.
As the Times notes, Mr. Bloomberg himself has made a “cleareyed assessment that he could not win” a presidential race. That’s true, and it’s not because he’s short or Jewish or from New York City, as he likes to joke. It’s because he’s too egotistical to go about the business of national coalition-building, too stubborn to bother managing competing demands. His frustration now is that he can’t get either of the candidates to squarely shoot their supporters in the eye—not with a real gun, mind you—which he views as statesmanship at its best. It’s juvenile in its romanticism. Besides, of course, he’s always welcome to take a shot at the White House himself.