If two things could have been predicted about Hurricane Sandy it was that, first, far too many people would waste time pondering the likely impact of the storm upon next week’s presidential elections and, second, that someone would look upon Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s steady leadership and ask why he’s not running for President.
I had not, however, expected my old friend (and former boss) Iain Martin to be one of those bemoaning Bloomberg’s absence from the national fray. Far less had I expected him to suggest that Bloomberg should have been theRepublicannominee this year.
Say what you will about Mitt Romney but he is at least a conservative. Michael Bloomberg is not and never has been. Asking that the Republican party be a bit more like Mike is akin to asking it to be a liberal party. You might think it a good idea but it’s hard to see why many American conservatives should feel like agreeing with you.
True, Bloomberg was elected as a kind-0f Republican but he only switched his registration from the Democratic party in 2o01 and did so – as was plain at the time – as a matter of political expediency rather than conviction. No-one – right? – was shocked when, safely ensconsed in office, he quite the GOP citing irreconcilable differences and won re-election as an independent. Albeit, a liberal independent because, you know, he’s running in New York City.
Suggesting the national GOP should have made room for Bloomberg makes about as much sense as supposing Rudy Giuliani had a feasible path to the Republican nomination in 2004. In each case their resume’s might have looked good on paper but in the fields of Iowa and New Hampshire’s town halls Bloomberg would have come a cropper as surely as Rudy did before him.
You cannot win a Republican primary if you’re pro-choice on abortion and take a “with us or against us” line on the issue. You cannot win a Republican primary if you’re in favour of sweeping gun control measures. You probably cannot win a Republican primary if you’re in favour of an immigration reform plan sponsored by Ted Kennedy, if you believe the government needs to do more to combat climate change and if you believe in same-sex marriage. These aren’t small matters, they’re fundamental differences with conservative orthodoxy and you need not be on the right-wing of the Republican party to wonder just what kind of conservative Mike Bloomberg can possibly be.
So it’s a mistake to think the Republican party left Mayor Bloomberg for the simple reason that he was never really part of it in the first place.
Now you can certainly argue that the GOP could do with making room for more people who share some of Bloomberg’s beliefs. It’s also true that you can make a sensible argument that Bloomberg’s economic record in New York is within the tradition of small-c conservatism even though it also includes raising property taxes (in an already heavily taxed part of the United States) and massive corporate giveaways to strivers such as Goldman Sachs.
It’s not, of course, a surprise that Bloomberg is the kind of American politician invited to speak at the British Conservative party’s annual conference. That, not altogether unreasonably, is the kind of thing that makes him an object of suspicion in the United States.
Most of all, however, you cannot possibly hope to have a significant position within the contemporary American conservative universe when you quite plainly disdain so many core conservative beliefs and, quite probably, give the impression of thinking that the people who actually vote in Republican primaries are poor rubes at best and more probably intolerant bigots.
Perhaps it would be better if the GOP were more like the Tory party. I sometimes think so myself. But it isn’t and the only political tradition in which Bloomberg really fits is that of the plutocratic opportunist.
He may well be more capable than Mitt Romney but Romney at least pretends to be a conservative. If Bloomberg couldn’t be troubled to fake it that’s probably an indication that he’s not – and never was – a conservative. That may not matter much in New York City but it kinda does elsewhere and it’s not unreasonable for conservatives to think they might be best represented by someone who is actually a conservative.
That scarcely excuses the circus freak-show that was this year’s Republican primary but there are many other conservatives who did not run this time around who are better hopes for reviving the Republican party than Mike Bloomberg.
So, while I agree with Iain than “sane” conservatism needs a champion it’s best to look to actual conservatives to take up that banner.
Hell, all this and I haven’t even mentioned Nurse Bloomberg’s War on Tobacco which is, of course, really a reminder that he’s not one of those politicians who respects other people’s property rights.
Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.