Nearly every day, something ugly is exposed about Michael Bloomberg’s past. In a normal presidential election year, such a steady drip of racist and misogynistic vitriol would have doomed a candidate from the start.
But we are living in a different political environment now, where a candidate’s viability is determined solely by whether he or she can defeat Donald Trump in November. Everything else, including one’s moral fortitude, seems less important.
When it comes to Bloomberg, Democrats are demanding a lot from African Americans. Those who are convinced that he is the only one who can go toe-to-toe with Trump are asking black people to suck it up and take one for the team.
Not everyone agrees that they should. But if he is the nominee, most of them will.
Blacks would join millions of others in voting for Bloomberg, in part, because it would be in the best interest of America. Most voters are desperate to rid our nation of a president so selfish, divisive and corrupt that he would destroy the democracy that we love.
But it also is because Trump has normalized aberrant behavior.
We promised not to allow that to happen, but Trump has worn us down. Year after year, he has tested the boundaries of what Americans can tolerate, and he has survived every challenge without ever having to pay a price.
We have become accustomed to a president who lies in nearly every sentence. We are used to a president who excuses white nationalism. And we have been forced to acknowledge that a president can create his own rules and punish anyone who dares to defy him.
The moral code for a president has diminished to the point that he could pay off an adult film star to keep her quiet about an alleged affair and avoid even a blemish. More than a dozen women can accuse him of sexual misconduct since the 1980s, and he will not be held accountable.
We have settled into the notion that in America, a president no longer must attempt to exude honesty and dignity. They don’t even have to try and convince us that their flaws aren’t as bad as they might seem. Nor must they promise to fix them.
Bloomberg has entered the Democratic race with a bag weighed down with flaws. He has apologized recently for things he kept quiet about for years. Time will tell whether he is sincere about making amends. Meanwhile, we will take his word for it and move on.
The former New York City mayor continued to rise in the polls, even after the release of an excerpt from a 2015 speech in which he said the way to get guns out of kids’ hands is for cops to “throw them against the wall and frisk them.”
In that same speech, he said 95% of murderers and murder victims fit one description. “You can just take the description. Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 16-25. … That’s true in virtually every city.”
No one was shocked by reports of Bloomberg’s past habit of telling lewd, sexual jokes in the workplace. We did not flinch upon hearing that he suggested a new computer system would “do everything, including give you a —-job” and “put a lot of you girls out of business.”
How could we when the man currently in the White House boasted that he could do anything to women, including “grab ’em by the p—-.” How could we when former close associates insist that Trump has used the N-word, labeled Latino immigrants rapists and drug dealers and continues to advocate for stop and frisk?
For weeks, voters only got to see Bloomberg as the messenger in powerful television ads that made him seem like a larger than life figure who isn’t afraid to fight on Trump’s terms.
He appeared to be fearless on Twitter, and the millions he is pouring into his campaign felt like a safety net that gave him the power to do whatever it takes to tear Trump down. Seeing Bloomberg do his thing on the airwaves gave a lot of people hope.
Then last week, we saw him sputter in a debate with seasoned competitors who wasted no time ganging up to reveal his considerable defects. Suddenly, he didn’t seem as impenetrable as we thought. He was not as forceful as his ads had portrayed him as being.
He was just a man, a seriously imperfect one at that.
Polls taken since the debate show that his momentum may have stalled. A Morning Consult poll released Friday dropped him from second place to third place behind Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. But that doesn’t mean Bloomberg is done.
In the coming weeks, we can expect Bloomberg to reenergize his campaign and wow us with more compelling ads. He will get better at debating, as every candidate still standing has done.
And he will compel many to believe that he and only he can defeat Trump.
If he manages to stick it out to the end, African Americans will campaign for him, place his bumper stickers on their cars, put signs in their yards and make calls on his behalf. And on Election Day, black people will do what they always do and try to push him over the top.
Many voters may never care for Bloomberg as a person. But as president, they are sure that he would be a thousand times better than Trump.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
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