Mike Bloomberg is outspending the entire Democratic presidential field and then some, already plunking down $211 million. That allows the former mayor of New York to avoid early states, which require intense retail politicking and where money is less important than on-the-ground support and organization.

Bloomberg now argues that Iowa and New Hampshire shouldn’t be up front anyway: “The Democratic Party reflects America’s incredible diversity. But the first two voting states, Iowa and New Hampshire, are among the most homogeneous in the nation.” He continues, “The problem is compounded by the fact that the two early voting states are unlikely to be consequential in the general election. So as a party, we are spending all of our time and resources outside of the battleground states we need to win.”

That argument about the schedule (which I have made) would be more persuasive coming from someone else. Having chosen not to compete in those states, he now seeks to devalue their importance. That self-serving declaration is followed by a non sequitur:

Our campaign has made steady progress in the polls very quickly, but people often ask me: Why aren't you in the debates?
It's simple: The party requires candidates to have a certain number of donations, but I've never accepted a nickel from anyone. Unlike President Trump, I've always been independent of the special interests.
I hope the DNC changes its rules — I’d gladly participate — but I’m not going to change my principles.

His “principles” don’t allow him to ask for small-dollar donations? That decision has nothing to do with his decision to skip early states, but it does allow him to avoid the rough-and-tumble debates that force his competitors to defend their positions, experience and views.

Let’s unscramble Bloomberg’s argument. First, it is true that Iowa and New Hampshire should not be up front. However, since they presently are and everyone else is competing there, his decision to skip them because of a late entry shouldn’t be considered an act of virtue. It’s a political calculation that’s only possible for someone spending unprecedented amounts of money. Second, it is a good thing for Democrats that he is “registering voters, funding anti-Trump digital ads, and building field operations ... [and] keeping field offices in these states open through the general election, no matter who our party nominates.” But he could spend all of his money helping the party rather than running a vanity race. Why not spend money advertising against Senate Republicans who won’t agree to allow witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial? Finally, the elephant in the room, and the reason that Bloomberg’s argument about diversity rings hollow, is his own self-financing.

There are a whole bunch more white, male billionaires than women and/or nonwhite billionaires in the United States. Democrats who have fallen out or failed to make recent debates, including all nonwhite candidates with the exception of Andrew Yang, do not have Bloomberg’s resources. If Democrats maintain this system that allows or even encourages billionaires to finance their own campaigns, they will have a limited number of people who can win presidential nominations and will significantly diminish the chances of getting a nonwhite, non-male candidate.

The Democratic Party, which has long bemoaned the role of money in politics, should address this head-on. Unlike a general election, a primary election can be run under rules that the party sets. There is nothing to prevent the party from saying that you cannot get on the ballot unless at least three-quarters (or 90 percent?) of your financing comes from individuals. The party could also deny superdelegates or otherwise penalize candidates who have self-financed or declined to participate in debates.

Ultimately, Democratic primary voters will decide whether they want to reward billionaires who choose to simply swamp the competition with their riches. And by the way, if they want plenty of support from their diverse base, they might want to pick someone with more than 4 percent support among African American voters.

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