Bloomberg’s Admiration for One-Party Authoritarianism
Matt Purple does a fine job summarizing what’s wrong with Mike Bloomberg in a new article on the main page. This one line captures the essence of who Bloomberg is:
It’s that callous indifference that makes him truly unique.
It is this same callous indifference that informs so many of his views, including his views on foreign policy. When asked about the Iraq war, he expresses no regret for supporting it. He claims that the invasion was an “honest mistake” instead of the massive crime that it was. Incredibly, he is even less repentant about his Iraq war boosterism than someone like Max Boot. Bloomberg previously spread the outrageous lie that the Iraq war was somehow connected to 9/11 when he said in 2004, “Don’t forget that the war started not very many blocks from here.” He and other Iraq war supporters like him were catastrophically wrong and hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and all he can say is, “I don’t live in a regret world, and I didn’t make the decision.” His answers to a questionnaire from The New York Times on foreign policy endorsed military action in almost every scenario where it was offered as an option.
There are two statements in particular that Bloomberg has made in the past that convey both his contempt for democracy and his admiration for one-party dictatorship.
Michael Bloomberg in 2010 on government: He begins with, "I'm not suggesting we shouldn't have democracy, BUT…," lamenting the lack of qualifications required to seek public office. Then he says progress depends on executives having "far and away" more power than legislatures. pic.twitter.com/1HlPsmtMuz
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) February 17, 2020
In that clip, he says, “There is something to be said for a democracy like Singapore’s.” The fact that Bloomberg sees the one-party authoritarian state in Singapore as a democracy is itself revealing. Singapore is rated as a partly free country where the elections are not considered free and fair. He apparently thinks that there is a democracy as long as there are elections held, and it doesn’t matter that the same party remains in power for decades. This 2015 article explains how Singapore’s elections work:
Nevertheless, this fact lends little legitimacy to the country’s elections because it is evident that the ruling party retains a substantial amount of control over the electoral process. For example, instead of being an independent agency the, Singapore Elections Department is a body within the Prime Minister’s Office, and it often operates without transparency. The structure of Singapore’s parliament also seems to prevent opposition parties from being able to win in elections.
In the remainder of his remarks, Bloomberg laments the existence of strong legislatures in several states, and concludes that it is these legislatures that are the problem. You could not ask for a more enthusiastic fan of untrammeled executive power. He says this in no uncertain terms: “Far and away, you should give more powers to the executive branch if you want progress.” Bloomberg is not just authoritarian in his willingness to trample on civil liberties, but he also genuinely believes that the executive should have sweeping powers with as few checks as possible.
When he was speaking about China and Xi Jinping, he volunteered this view:
Xi Jinping is not a dictator. He has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.
Bloomberg’s willingness to make excuses for the Chinese government is remarkable in itself, and it shows the extent to which he and his company cater to Beijing’s wishes, but it is also a window into his warped understanding of government and accountability. He claims that Xi is not a dictator because he has to answer to “constituents,” but of course there is no way for those “constituents” to hold him accountable or remove him peacefully if he does a poor job. The only way that Xi might be removed from power is through a coup or an intra-party leadership challenge, but neither of those things makes him any less of a dictator. Bloomberg admires one authoritarian system and makes excuses for another. He believes that executives should have vast powers with few constraints, and he has demonstrated that he holds constitutional protections in contempt. No one should wield as much power as the modern presidency allows one person to have, and it would be downright insane to entrust that much power to someone like Bloomberg.