I can think of at least 60 billion reasons why the Democrats changed the rules to allow Michael Bloomberg a spot at future presidential debates.
Those reasons would be, of course, the $60 billion Bloomberg is worth—a nice chunk of which he’s pledged to spend on commercials promoting himself and, if all else fails, ripping Donald Trump.
Bloomberg’s voluminous pocketbook was on display during the Super Bowl, when the former New York City mayor was the only Democrat with the cash to run a spot against the one Trump aired in which the president promoted himself as, of all things, a friend to Black people.
I guess truth really is the first casualty in war and politics.
Back to the rules change. Democratic candidates will be allowed on the debate stage if they reach a threshold in national polls—but there will be no threshold requirement for the number of contributors to a campaign.
Previously, a Democratic candidate needed to have drawn contributions from hundreds of thousands of donors.
But Bloomberg has only one donor: himself.
It sort of reminds me of that old Joey Bishop joke about the tire salesman. You can either make a million dollars selling 100,000 tires for $10 apiece. Or you can sell one tire for a million. Ah, it was funnier when Joey told it.
You’re going to hear a lot about the debate rules change in the coming weeks from all sorts of politicians—including Trump.
Donny and the MAGA hat crew will be crying their crocodile tears about the process being rigged against Bernie and Bernie bros getting screwed—when, in fact, they care about Bernie bros almost as little as they care about Black people.
Actually, Trump probably cares a teensy bit more about Bernie bros cause there’s a long-shot chance that a few Bernie bros might be dumb enough to actually vote for Trump.
Prove me wrong, Bernie bros!
As much as I dislike it when the powers that be change the rules to help other powers that be, I actually welcome Bloomberg to the race—if for no other reason than his presence is driving Trump bonkers. Always an entertaining diversion.
Still, I understand why some Democrats may be irritated. Bloomberg is essentially buying his way into the election as a way of avoiding all the hard work being done by party activists like Maggie Wunderly, a Sanders supporter from Aurora.
For the last few years, Wunderly has been actively engaged in the rulemaking proceedings, attending many meetings in windowless rooms filled with partisans from rival campaigns, endlessly reviewing the minutiae of rules and regulations governing the presidential nominating process.
The purpose of these meetings is to settle on a relatively painless process that will enable the Democrats to show up for their convention this summer in Milwaukee more or less united behind one candidate who cleanly and fairly won the nomination.
Thus, the Democrats can spare the tooth-and-claw spectacle of 2016, in which many Sanders supporters—unknowingly egged on by Russian operatives who hacked into Democratic computers—heckled Clinton operatives for stealing the nomination.
If only my Democrats fought Republicans as hard as they fight themselves.
Wunderly probably knows as much about the delegation selection process as anyone in the state. As such, she can tell you there are 18 congressional districts in Illinois. Each district is apportioned a number of delegates according to the turnout in the last Democratic primary—the more Democratic voters in the last primary, the more delegates it gets.
For instance, the First congressional district on the south side has eight Democratic delegates. The 15th district, in Trump country in southern Illinois, has three.
To assemble their delegates, the Sanders campaign made sure each slate was ethnically and generationally balanced. “We have a full slate in every district,” says Wunderly.
Aside from Sanders, only Elizabeth Warren can make that claim (Joe Biden comes very close). Pete Buttigieg, for instance, has five delegates running on his behalf in the upscale Ninth district that runs on the north shore. But he has no delegate candidates running in the First—which sort of says it all about Mayor Pete’s feeble outreach to Black voters.
Still, Mayor Pete has more delegate candidates on the ballot throughout the state than Bloomberg—who has none.
That’s right, I have as many delegates as Mayor Mike. And I’m not even running.
In defense of Bloomberg—who needs delegates when you’ve got 60 billion bucks?
In all seriousness, the best argument for putting together delegate slates is that the delegates will campaign door-to-door on your behalf—as Wunderly says she’ll do for Sanders with her neighbors in Aurora.
But even if Bloomberg has no delegates running under his name, he can still have delegates from Illinois representing him at the convention. They would be awarded to him according to how many votes he wins in each congressional district.
So, if Bloomberg wins 50 percent of the votes in the First district—as hard as that is to imagine—he’d get four delegates. And so on.
I figure Bloomberg will win some votes in Illinois if for no other reason than by the March 17 primary he’ll have spent untold millions on commercials. So even if he won’t have activists like Wunderly reaching out to their neighbors, he’ll have commercials running around the clock.
In some ways, Bloomberg’s strategy is similar to the one employed by Governor Pritzker in 2018, when he outspent all of his Democratic rivals put together.
True, Pritzker also built a base of support throughout the state. But Bloomberg’s got even more money. Apparently base-building is overrated.
Most Bernie backers I know don’t seem too upset about having Bloomberg on the ballot—or on the debate stage. After all, Bloomberg takes votes from centrists like Biden.
In fact, my hunch is Democratic chieftains made the debate change because they worried that Biden wasn’t strong enough to beat Bernie.
As I said—if the Democrats fought Republicans as hard as they fight themselves, they never would have lost to Trump in the first place. v