Ross Douthat is a very smart fellow with a world view that is very different from mine. I generally have to force myself to read him, because who wants to hear from a very smart fellow who might challenge some of your preconceived ideas? This evening, I almost passed on The Bloomberg Temptation, but I am glad I read it anyway. Douthat writes, among other things, that,
Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are naked on his Twitter feed, but Bloomberg’s imperial instincts, his indifference to limits on his power, are a conspicuous feature of his career. …
In our era of congressional abdication, all presidents are prodded or tempted toward power grabs and caesarism. But Bloomberg’s career, no less than Trump’s, suggest that as president this would be less a temptation than a default approach. And the former mayor, unlike the former “Apprentice” star, is ferociously competent, with a worldview very much aligned with the great and good, from D.C. to Silicon Valley — which means that he would have much more room to behave abnormally without facing a Resistance movement of activists and journalists and judges.
To choose Bloomberg as the alternative to Trump, then, is to bet that a chaotic, corrupt populist is a graver danger to what remains of the Republic than a grimly-competent plutocrat with a history of executive overreach and strong natural support in all our major power centers.
Having delivered himself of the above observation, Douthat immediately concludes, “That [i.e, picking “a grimly-competent plutocrat with a history of executive overreach” rather than “a chaotic, corrupt populist”] seems like a very unwise bet.”
Oooookay, then … Mr. Douthat, would you please tell us WHY it’s “unwise” to pick Bloomberg as the nominee? Because you think Donald Trump isn’t really all that bad? After all, who needs a constitutional republic?
Or is it because all the other plausible Democratic nominees are just as electable as Bloomberg?
You don’t really say.
John Cassidy of The New Yorker has Seven Questions for Mike Bloomberg. Mr. Cassidy covers much the same ground as Mr. Douthat, characterizing Bloomberg as “offering the voters a form of benign oligarchy” as contrasted with Trump’s “malignant oligarchy.”
“Can’t American democracy do better than that?” Cassidy would like to know. And so would I, Arius Aardvark: I, too, would like to know the answer to that very question.
But I am afraid that, as of right now, the answer is, no, we can’t do better.