On Tuesday morning, Feb.11, leaked audio surfaced of presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg’s remarks at a 2015 event, in which he makes aggressively racist comments and defends his support of “stop-and-frisk”. In this piece, I will detail the context of these revelations, explain the oligarchical nature of his campaign, and argue that Mike Bloomberg should immediately drop out of the race.
First, let’s take a closer look at the comments from the leaked recording. In the audio, taken from a speech delivered at the Aspen Institute, Bloomberg tries to defend his support for and the institution of ‘”stop-and-frisk,” a policy which allowed police to perform an involuntary and invasive search on anyone that they thought looked ‘suspicious,’ while serving as mayor of New York City. “Stop-and-frisk” has been found to overwhelmingly and disproportionately target Black and Latinx residents. It has also previously been ruled unconstitutional in federal court, as a violation of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. This overtly racist policy has also been proven to have an effectiveness rate below 1 percent, meaning that nothing incriminating was found in 99 percent of cases. The policy is bad enough, so let’s examine what Bloomberg had to say about it. During his speech he said,
“Controversial, but, first thing is … 95 percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities fifteen to 25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city … So one of the unintended consequences is people say, ‘Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.’ Yes, that’s true. Why? Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them.”
This quote is quite clearly horrific — Bloomberg says to profile every young person of color in the city, to throw them against the wall, and violently and aggressively search them. He says to put all of the police in minority neighborhoods and then says that it is essentially a good thing to arrest huge amounts of people of color for low-level drug offenses. He also perpetuates and furthers the myth that crime is centered around neighborhoods with people of color. There’s so much to unpack with this quote, I could write an entire article on that alone. It would be more productive to analyze Bloomberg in context. I believe it is important to briefly contextualize these statements within Bloomberg’s record as mayor. Under Bloomberg, the “stop-and-frisk” program was formally launched, and it resulted in thousands of unlawful and inhumane searches of Black and Latinx residents. In addition, part of Bloomberg’s racist ‘tough-on-crime’ policies included the rapid expansion of the prison population at Riker’s Island, one of the most brutal prisons in the country. Conditions are so bad there that many activists have called for a complete shutdown of the prison. Under Bloomberg, one man, Kalief Browder, was driven to suicide in the prison at the age of 22, after having served three years for a crime of which he was never convicted. Bloomberg’s record on race and policing is horrendous, and that alone makes him unfit to serve as president. That is not, however, the only reason he should drop out of the race.
I would also like to briefly explain the harm that Bloomberg brings to democracy and to progressive movements. On a broad scale, Bloomberg is incredibly representative of what we understand the word ‘oligarch’ to mean. He has used his wealth to fund millions of dollars in advertising, but beyond that, and perhaps more damaging, is the fact that he has managed to convince the DNC to change their own debate rules to allow him a spot on the stage. This is something that has not been done for any other candidate. Bloomberg personifies the corrupt nature of U.S. politics in a very similar way to Trump. He creates further harm by threatening to stop the largest progressive movement in modern history from winning a democratically elected nomination. If Bloomberg manages to split the vote sufficiently, the nomination might go to a moderate candidate, such as Bloomberg himself or Buttigieg. If this did happen, it would solely be due to Bloomberg’s massive spending capabilities. Democracy should not be for sale. If Bloomberg wants to actually help stop the rise of the right-wing, he should know that his campaign’s existence only makes the issue worse.
It is my view that Bloomberg’s continued presence in the Democratic primary will only contribute more and more harm as time goes on. He should do the progressive movement, our democracy, and every American a favor: drop out of the race.