Many people—especially those people who earn livings by convincing editors and bookers that rich and influential strangers consider their thoughts and opinions interesting—have ideas about who should or should not run for president. If you are one of those people, here is a bit of advice: If you are going to write a column arguing that someone should enter the presidential race, it is your responsibility to come up with a coherent and plausible path to victory for that person.
If there is no plausible path to victory, but you still really want this person to run, you are obligated to explain why a losing campaign would still be in some sense worthwhile. You should not simply assert that someone would make a successful (that is, victorious) presidential candidate because you like them.
Wolff’s very first line is a profoundly stupid untruth. “There is only one person who can win the Democratic nomination for president if Hillary Clinton craters.”
That is false. If Hillary Clinton comes to suffer some sort of campaign-ending scandal (unlikely for a woman who might be the most extensively vetted candidate in the history of the modern political press), or simply drops precipitously in the polls, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley—a conventional Democrat with a conventional background and executive experience—will be around, and Democratic voters will acquaint themselves with him, and vote for him.
And if Michael Bloomberg were to enter the race for the Democratic nomination? Here is a counterintuitive take: Given a choice between a conventional Democrat and Michael Bloomberg, Democratic primary voters will select a Democrat.
If the national Democratic electorate consisted solely of high-income whites—it if looked, in other words, more like Manhattan below 96th Street, or like Michael Wolff’s social and professional circles—Bloomberg might have a path to the nomination. But it does not and he doesn’t.
It is one thing to imagine a potential Bloomberg presidential run as an independent. Skipping the primaries helps this hypothetical Bloomberg campaign avoid the fact that Bloomberg has no path to the nomination of either major party. There is even a recent historical example of a renegade billionaire buying his way into a presidential race between an uninspiring Republican and a Democrat seen as too liberal: Ross Perot. Perot received nearly 20 million votes, and won... nothing. Not one state. (And prickly elitist Bloomberg is no populist weirdo Perot.)
For years, various men attempted to convince political reporters and Michael Bloomberg himself that Michael Bloomberg should make a run as an independent. These men did this because they were on the Bloomberg payroll, and Bloomberg paid his aides, pollsters, strategists, and top-level campaign staff extraordinarily well. A serious presidential run, even though it would assuredly have ended in failure, would have represented a massive redistribution of wealth from one billionaire to a handful of millionaire campaign hacks. But smarter and less craven people, Bloomberg included, have long acknowledged that Michael Bloomberg will not ever be president; not because of the hegemony of the two-party system, but simply because a majority of Americans would rather vote for other people.
Michael Wolff, craven and not smart, does not bother to challenge any of various obstacles (like the fact that Bloomberg has never done remotely well in a national poll) to a Bloomberg run. He imagines a conservative silent majority not of “ordinary” Americans in general, but of registered Democratic Party voters.
I publish my latest column 'Can Obama Lead? Bloomberg Will.' The Acela derails from all the hooting and hollering my column brings.May 26, 2015
The closest Wolff ever comes to laying out a coherent path to victory for Bloomberg is this rote and meaningless invocation of the magical, imaginary “middle.”
If, as everybody seems increasingly to understand, political parties now facilitate the opposite of consensus, then an effectively independent political power base — in a sense, the only one in the country — like Michael Bloomberg’s could be a wonderful, even astounding, corrective.
Michael Bloomberg’s “independent political power base” does not exist. He has no organization. He controls no votes. His “base” is a small number of very rich people on the East Coast.
“It’s the hegemony of the Democratic party that has heretofore blocked the career of one of the most restless, ambitious and successful men in American politics,” Wolff says, and he is correct, as long as what he means by “the hegemony of the Democratic party” is that a majority of Democratic voters do not and will not support a Michael Bloomberg presidential run, which is generally the deciding factor in popular elections.
I could be wrong! In some future America, there could be a plausible Michael Bloomberg path to the Democratic nomination. I would love to read a column by a smart person actually attempting to persuade me of this, using evidence. But it is not in Wolff’s nature to make arguments that are designed to be persuasive, as opposed to “provocative.” It is his job to make people talk about Michael Wolff and the bad, dumb words he writes, and in that sense he did his job today.
But, please, don’t be like Michael Wolff.
If you or someone you know is considering becoming a columnist, please don’t write this column.
If you or someone you know edits the opinion section of a newspaper of magazine or website, I beg of you: Don’t allow this column to be published.
If you are Michael Wolff, please fuck off.