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Editorial : Michael Bloomberg's entry into Democratic race

【明報專訊】Michael Bloomberg, a US billionaire and former mayor of New York, announced last week that he would enter the Democratic primary for presidential nomination in 2020.

Bloomberg is the 18th contender in the Democratic primary. Of the four contenders leading in the polls, former vice president Joe Biden is a moderate and establishment favourite. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are both veteran politicians as well as radical progressives whose economic policy proposals lean towards socialism. Pete Buttigieg is a homosexual mayor who is just 37 years old. As of today Biden is at the top of the polls, but the gap between him and the other three is narrowing. At one point Sanders was hospitalised and had to suspend his campaigning. As a result Warren, who is in a similar position to Sanders on the political spectrum, saw her support rocketing.

Like Donald Trump, Bloomberg is a tycoon. But he is different from Trump in the sense that he proposes a more equal tax system and tougher gun control. He also admits the scientific proof of climate change. These positions very much chime in with the core values of the Democratic Party and are found acceptable by moderate voters, making him an ideal moderate candidate for swing voters. Therefore, he can be a worthy adversary of Donald Trump. The great damage Trump has done to the US in terms of its domestic politics, society, economy and diplomacy and the resultant severe divisions in US society are the background to Bloomberg's entry into the race.

However, Bloomberg's status and background are a double-edged sword. As the deputy of former president Barack Obama and a veteran politician, Biden was originally the darling of the Democratic moderate establishment. Bloomberg's entry will not only cost Biden his donors, but also dilute Biden's vote.

More importantly, Bloomberg is a businessman-cum-politician like Trump who intends to run the country like he runs his company. To Democrats who value change, it is difficult to hope that Bloomberg can be a new leader that can bring about structural change in American society. He has listed all kinds of achievements when governing New York, the largest financial centre in the world. This shows exactly that his administrative experience is non-partisan. While his governance style might have been useful amid the 2008 financial crisis, it is questionable whether it is applicable to America today. Furthermore, back then he was elected as mayor of New York as a Republican. His support for "stop-and-frisk" policing during his mayorship has been strongly criticised. It was also in his mayorship that the Occupy Wall Street movement was forcefully dispersed. These will make him prone to opponents' attacks.

The crux of the matter is this: as the anxiety over the disparity between rich and poor, as well as that over influence exerted by large corporations, grows day by day, it is highly questionable whether a Democratic Party dominated by females, ethnic minorities and young progressives will nominate a billionaire who is late to the game and not very politically approvable to face Donald Trump.

明報社評2019.12.02:民主黨反極左糾偏 彭博參選利弊互見

美國億萬富翁、紐約市前市長彭博上周宣布參加民主黨2020總統大選初選。

彭博是民主黨總統初選的第18名參選者,目前支持度暫時領先的前4名參選人中,前副總統拜登屬於溫和建制派,另兩名老牌政客桑德斯和沃倫都屬於激進進步派,兩人的經濟政策主張接近社會主義,而年僅37歲的布蒂吉格,則是一名同性戀市長。迄今為止,拜登雖仍居首位,但與後3者的差距卻在縮小,當桑德斯前段時間因病入院、暫停競選活動,與其政治光譜接近的沃倫,支持度就迅速攀升。

同為富豪,彭博不同於特朗普,他倡議稅收更平等、禁槍更嚴厲,承認氣候變化的科學論證。上述立場頗符合民主黨主流價值,又可令中間選民接受,是討好搖擺選民的理想溫和派候選人,因此,他本來可以是特朗普強勁的對手。而特朗普對當前美國國內政治、社會、經濟、外交的強烈破壞作用,導致美國社會的嚴重分裂,正是彭博參選的背景原因。

不過,彭博的身分背景利弊互見,作為上屆總統奧巴馬的副手、老牌政治家,拜登本是民主黨建制溫和派的屬意人選,彭博參選不僅令拜登失去金主,也分薄了拜登的票源。

更重要的是,和特朗普一樣,彭博也是個政治商人,把國家當公司來經營,對於重視改變的民主黨人來說,恐怕很難指望他會成為美國社會結構變革的新領袖。他自己列舉治理紐約這座全球最大金融中心城市的種種業績恰好說明,他的行政經驗長處是非黨派的,其管治方式或在2008年解決金融危機時適用,但是否適用於今天的美國頗成疑問。更何况他當年是以共和黨身分當選紐約市長,任內支持警方截查路人身分的做法備受詬病,正是在他任內,佔領華爾街運動遭強力驅散,這些都會成為他易受對手攻訐的軟肋。

關鍵的問題是,在對貧富不均和大企業影響力的擔憂與日俱增的背景下,由女性、少數族裔和年輕進步派選民佔據主導的民主黨,是否會提名一名起步既晚、政見認同度又不太高的億萬富翁來與特朗普對決,實在是一個很大的問號。

■Glossary

lean towards sth : to have a tendency to prefer sth, especially a particular opinion or interest

non-partisan : not supporting the ideas of any political party or group

ethnic minority : a group of people from a particular culture or of a particular race living in a country where the main group is of a different culture or race

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