What’s more, Bloomberg, a true philanthropist who bankrolls efforts to stop gun violence and combat climate change, has all the qualities that President Trump lacks: a moral core, deeply held convictions, a belief in the power of government to address if not fix problems, respect for the rule of law and reverence for our democratic institutions and the Constitution.
Still, assuming he really gets into the race, Bloomberg won’t be the Democratic presidential nominee.
If African Americans are the foundation of the Democratic Party and no candidate will win the nomination without their support, then Bloomberg’s vocal support of the New York City Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policy that targeted young African American and Latino men for police searches during his mayoralty will make his candidacy a nonstarter for them.
The constitutionality of “stop and frisk” was challenged in federal court in 2013. Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that while the procedure was constitutional, the stops conducted by the NYPD were not. At the time, Bloomberg blasted the decision and the judge. He called Scheindlin “an ideologically driven federal judge who has a history of ruling against the police,” adding, “When it comes to policing, political correctness is deadly.”
That assertion was not borne out by statistics of police stops between 2004 and 2012 that were the basis of the judge’s ruling.
- “52% of all stops were followed by a protective frisk for weapons. A weapon was found after 1.5% of these frisks. In other words, in 98.5% of the 2.3 million frisks, no weapon was found.”
- “In 52% of the 4.4 million stops, the person stopped was black, in 31% the person was Hispanic, and in 10% the person was white.”
- “In 23% of the stops of blacks, and 24% of the stops of Hispanics, the officer recorded using force. The number for whites was 17%.”
- “Weapons were seized in 1.0% of the stops of blacks, 1.1% of the stops of Hispanics, and 1.4% of the stops of whites.”
- “Contraband other than weapons was seized in 1.8% of the stops of blacks, 1.7% of the stops of Hispanics, and 2.3% of the stops of whites.”
“Targeting young black and Hispanic men for stops based on the alleged criminal conduct of other young black or Hispanic men violates bedrock principles of equality,” ruled Scheindlin.
The argument that Bloomberg and others made — that getting rid of “stop and frisk” would lead to a spike in crime — isn’t supported by the NYPD’s own data. “Recent police data shows little to no correlation between a decline in police stops and a surge in major crime,” reported Politico late last year. “The number of reported police stops have dropped by a total of 98 percent since their peak in 2011. In that time, homicides have decreased 43 percent, while major index crimes have declined 9 percent.”
For African Americans, “stop and frisk” was not some one-off police policy. It was a new technique in an old system of racial oppression that criminalized black and brown people, men in particular. To argue in favor of it despite the innocent lives upended by it is to ignore the collective angst and anger that ripples through the overwhelming majority of the community that hasn’t done anything wrong.
Bloomberg would enter the race for the Democratic nomination for president with a serious liability and no clear way to make it right. His reported decision to skip the four early states, which includes South Carolina where blacks make up 60 percent of the Democratic electorate, compounds this problem.
Competing for Palmetto State voters would give Bloomberg an opportunity to answer questions about “stop and frisk” and be held accountable before the voters. Opting for a “broad-based, national campaign,” as Bloomberg adviser Howard Wolfson told the New York Times over the weekend, might sound great on paper, but it will be a disaster on the ground.
Take Wisconsin, for example. Trump was the first Republican to win Wisconsin since 1984. He did so by about 23,000 votes. Black voter turnout in that state plunged from 74 percent in 2012 to 55.1 percent in 2016. Voter suppression efforts played a part, but so did distaste for the candidates. “Republican Donald Trump received about 2,700 fewer votes than 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported in a story about a study of the 2016 election, “while Democrat Hillary Clinton received almost 239,000 fewer votes than President Barack Obama, with much of the decline coming in Milwaukee” — home to a large African American community.
If Bloomberg were to succeed in becoming the nominee, he possibly would have done so over the objections of African American voters. Come November 2020, those voters could do what they have consistently done when they feel ignored or taken advantage of: They could stay home. Thus, the candidate who jumped into the race because he was not satisfied that the current crop of candidates could beat Trump could be the candidate who gets him reelected.
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