What's one to think of the possibility that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will run for president? The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman has chronicled the murmurs. Trial balloon passenger Joe Scarborough has uttered his pooh-poohs, at least regarding his own participation. I have my doubts that this should be taken seriously, myself. But who knows? Maybe Bloomberg could get a waiver from the electorate, provided he hire an assistant with actual legislative experience?
Steve Kornacki will throw the four or five people who are worried about this into further confusion today, by suggesting that the Bloomberg-for-President doubters should doubt their doubting, maybe:
But there are two reasons to keep tabs on Bloomberg as '12 approaches.
One is that, at least from this far out, it's possible that an '80/'92-like dynamic -- that is, one that is unusually favorable to the emergence of a third-party candidacy -- will prevail in 2012. In '80, voters badly wanted to reject Jimmy Carter, who was presiding over a stalled economy and an endless hostage crisis, but were apprehensive about Ronald Reagan, the Republican nominee who was then widely viewed as a trigger-happy extremist. Thus, the March entrance of [John] Anderson, a moderate Illinois Republican, was initially greeted with enthusiasm by the public. Similarly, by the spring of '92, voters were increasingly ready to vote out George H.W. Bush, but concerns about Bill Clinton's basic character were keeping them from flocking to the Democrat. This allowed Ross Perot to emerge as a viable third-party contender.
Kornacki's second reason to keep the notion of a Bloomberg 2012 campaign alive in our thoughts is, of course, the obvious fact that Bloomberg sits on a pile of billions of dollars that isn't going to just do something crazy of their own volition.
That's a compelling enough reason for me! But even if we can't completely write off Bloomberg's candidacy, just yet, we can definitely disabuse ourselves of the notion that a Bloomberg presidency will achieve what the pundit class will inevitably claim a Bloomberg presidency will achieve: the successful alteration of the "tone" in "Washington" and the ushering in of an era of paradisical bipartisanship.
The important thing to remember, should it come to pass that Bloomberg is swept into the Church of High Broderism to be its latest Golden Calf, is that there is no "Bloomberg Party." There will be no candidates running on Bloombergianism downticket. And even if there were, one cannot walk into a voting booth in November 2012 and pull a level for the 51 Senators and the 218 Representatives necessary to bring about this divine vision.
The question that needs to be asked about all these notions is what kind of legislative coalition is President Bloomberg supposed to be governing with? The version of ARRA that passed was the one Senators Collins, Snowe, and Specter were prepared to support. So what difference would it have made had Barack Obama been somewhat less liberal? I bet a third party president would initially impress people with his bold truth-telling and lack of need to cater to old bulls on the Hill. But it would swiftly become apparent that the constitution hasn't been repealed, that the only bills that pass are the ones members of congress will vote for, and that members of congress all belong to parties. The only way you'd be able to get anything done would be to find a way to work within the party system somehow.
The point is that most of the stuff people like to decry about American politics--the venality, the small-minded partisanship, the bickering, the corrupt deals--happens in Congress. Wishing for a different president doesn't address any of it.
Of course, absent the possibility of magically altering the traditional legislative landscape, the other way an independent/non-affiliated president could change the tone in Washington would be to personally build a firewall between the White House and the various lobbies and corporate interests that constantly hijack the political process. But right when you start to dream about that possibility, it hits you: "Oh, ha ha. I forgot we were talking about Michael Bloomberg, silly me!"
Don't laugh (too hard) at the Bloomberg '12 talk [Salon War Room]