Michael Bloomberg once said he definitely would not run for president (in 2016, and then again in 2020). But, after announcing his late-in-the-game candidacy within the Democratic party, his name seems to be inescapable — especially if you are a person, any person, with an Instagram account. Now, Bloomberg has qualified to enter the ninth Democratic debate in Nevada amongst steady frontrunners Sens. Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, former vice president Joe Biden, and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Ahead of the debate, Bloomberg made headlines for advertising his campaign via Instagram memes to target young voters, but was quickly called out for it by, well, everyone. Large meme accounts including @GrapeJuiceBoys and @Tank.Sinatra, @MyTherapistSays and @WhitePeopleHumor, adding up to over 6 million follower counts total, posted ads that looked like fake direct messages between Bloomberg and account managers — and he shelled out quite a bit of cash for this campaign strategy. In addition, the Bloomberg campaign also recently put out dog memes and memes about the candidate being an Aquarius — clearly trying to target specific demographics of people online.
These strategies coming so close to a prominent debate night will surely be the subject of some scrutiny from his constituents. That begs the question — what exactly can we expect from a Bloomberg-inclusive debate?
Bloomberg, a bonafide billionaire and former Mayor of New York, is a businessman who, years ago, amidst mass shooting crises, founded the popular nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety. He boasts a long and passionate stance on ending gun violence in America, helping largely finance the organization since 2013. According to a RealClearPolitics poll, Bloomberg currently has 14.6% support among 2020 voters, but that could certainly change before November.
This last week on Twitter, many took to using the hashtag #MyBloombergStory to share impacts of Bloomberg’s policies and actions during his time in office. Particularly, Bloomberg came under fire for his storied history of supporting Stop and Frisk laws in New York. Following Rudy Giuliani's 2002 crime reduction program, Bloomberg continued with Stop and Frisk laws despite data that showed the NYPD's targeted young people of color in New York through 2013. According to a federal court judge, “the City’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.”
Known for voting himself into a third term as mayor, divisions between the upper, middle, and lower classes grew during Bloomberg's tenure. A Census Bureau report in 2013 showed that the poverty rate in New York had inched up in 2012, to 21.2% of New Yorkers and the number of homeless families living in shelters in New York City shot up 80 percent, according to Salon. While he's always claimed to fight for marginalized people, Bloomberg was also responsible for ending rent subsidy programs for the homeless, causing homeless shelter populations to surge. Though it's unclear whether his position or enacted policies directly caused all of the concerns around poverty and homelessness in New York, it's certainly a point that Bloomberg will have to answer for in the 2020 debates.
Bloomberg did ultimately apologize for his handling of Stop and Frisk policies, saying that he defended them for "too long." According to ABC News, the former mayor is addressing his recorded remarks and taking accountability for them. "And because I didn't fully understand the unintentional pain it caused young black and brown kids and their families, I should have acted sooner and I should have stopped it, and I didn't, and I apologize for that."
It's anticipated that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — who have harped on ending billionaire power in the U.S. throughout the election — will take specific jabs at him for his wealth. Bloomberg is currently worth $61.8 billion, making him the richest presidential candidate, and the 6th richest person in the U.S., as of November 2019. Between the progressive and even more conservative Democratic candidates, Bloomberg's track record, recent attempt at meme popularity, and sudden entrance into an already cluttered race, will certainly be at the forefront of the debate conversation. And that will include discrepancies in his presidential proposals versus policies he enacted as New York City mayor. But, there is a good chance Bloomberg will end the night with his infamous iced beer concoction.