Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail is but one of many campaign books listed by amazon.com on a page entitled, in big bold headlines, THE Supremely Weird 1972 Election. Thompson is surely rolling over in his grave knowing that he will be unable to pen a similar tome for the supremely weird 2008 election.
Just when you thought things could not get any stranger, up pops the very real prospect that the primary season could come and go and not matter one whit because New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is probably going to be the next president of the United States without ever having to worry about such an old fashioned notions as party primaries.
If Michael Bloomberg decides to run for president, that's the ballgame. End of discussion.
I know the counter arguments: no modern day independent or third party candidate has come even close to winning; the hurdles and challenges of an independent candidacy are daunting; voters have not traditionally viewed being a mayor as proper preparation for the presidency; few people outside of New York City have even heard of Michael Bloomberg.
All true enough. George Wallace, John Anderson, Ralph Nader, Ross Perot had the most successful independent or third party runs, but never came close to the possibility of actually winning the presidency.
As for being only a mayor, this time around we already have two former mayors in the race, former Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinich and New York's Rudy Giuliani, so dismissing mayors as not serious candidates might be considered disrespectful, especially given Giuliani's lead in many polls. Two other former mayors, San Francisco's Dianne Feinstein and San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros, were so highly thought of that Walter Mondale almost made them his vice presidential pick in 1984. But mayors as candidates for president, while not rare, have rarely found much success. Remember John Lindsay, the perfect dream candidate? Or Sam Yorty? Or Larry Agran? I think not.
The checkered history of mayors as presidential candidates and the lack of success of independent candidates in the past is not the yardstick that should be used to judge the potential of a Bloomberg candidacy because...well...let's just say Michael Bloomberg is no Larry Agran.
If you try to analyze Bloomberg's chances of winning by the old political calculus, you miss today's truth. Bloomberg can't lose precisely because he breaks all the political rules. First of all he is rich and needs to kowtow to no one. He once was a Democrat and once was a Republican. He's shown himself to be a solid fiscal manager and an Al Gore-style environmental champion. He's a law and order mayor, a champion of the second amendment yet supports gun control. He had the political courage to make New York City non-smoking and is now prepared to tax people who insist on driving into the already over-congested city. He is smart and surrounds himself with smart people. He made tackling real live problems, and competence, the central organizing principle of his mayoral term and will do the same for his campaign. And he is the polar opposite of a polarizing figure that voters are all tired of. This non-politician politician with little glamour and less charm, has the ability to take all the wedge issues that divide and throw them out the window to focus on the issues that unite us. And did I mention that he is rich?
While all the others candidates are frantically running around like chickens with their heads cut off, worrying about money reporting deadlines, straw polls and the ungluing of the primary calendar, Bloomberg is off to undisclosed locations, living the life, waiting until the spirit moves him. And when it does, game over.
That is why, in this Alice-in-the-looking-glass year, when up is down and down is up, I am staking claim to the book title for my story of the 2008 election: "THE SUPREMELY WEIRD ELECTION OF MICHAEL BLOOMBERG" as the 44th president of the United States.