Veteran journalist Roger Simon put it well: ” Should [Mayor Bloomberg] spend a billion dollars on a quixotic campaign for President or [does he] spend the same billion dollars to help cure AIDS, feed the hungry, house the homeless, fund the arts?” After reading the long list of grants Mayor Michael Bloomberg made last week–more than $30 million to 530 neighborhood-based cultural, health and social service groups –I vote for Bloomberg as philanthropist. Drop the Presidential ambitions. (For a full list of the Mayor’s “anonymous” grants–given via the Carnegie Corporation of New York, go to www.carnegie.org/sub/news/2007anonymous)
Sure, if elected President Bloomberg might well use government funds to support needle exchange programs to help reduce the spread of H.I.V. or programs to help battered women or groups working to repeal the draconian Rockefeller Drug laws and organizations dedicated to ending violence against gays and lesbians. But let’s get real here. Until we bust open our two party duopoly with a slew of vital electoral reforms, third party candidates just don’t have a chance. (That’s why we should demand that the Presidential candidates –and the parties’ platforms–support pro-democracy reforms like Instant Runoff Voting.) But back to Bloomberg. Unless you’ve been too consumed reading the Washington Post’s riveting (but two-years-too-late) four-part, 20,000 word series on Cheney, you know that New York’s billionaire mayor is playing footsie with running for President as an independent. And you’ve probably heard the punditchatter about about how Bloomberg could become ’08’s Ross Perot. However, here’s another reality check:while Perot got 19% of the vote, he didn’t get a single electoral vote. And as we’ve learned the hard way these last few years, the College controls the endgame. (That’s another pro-democracy reform we need to fight for–check out the National Popular Vote campaign at Fairvote.org) If Bloomberg is as savvy and sharp and concerned about the country’s future direction as he says he is, he’d be wise to stick to his promise to devote his life to philanthropy when he leaves the mayor’s office.