Michael Bloomberg, presumably ensconced in either his Hamptons mansion, London townhouse or Bermuda retreat, is pondering an independent run for the presidency. Ideally, the former New York City mayor will stay at home, or homes.
Mr. Bloomberg has floated the idea of running should either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz win the Republican nomination, and/or Bernie Sanders become the choice of Democrats. The billionaire businessman finds all three to be too radical for his taste. The victories in New Hampshire of Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders may have moved Mr. Bloomberg closer to making a run.
A Republican in the past, Mr. Bloomberg is far too socially liberal to get elected to any office as a Republican today. He supports the right to abortion, has put his considerable money behind the cause of gun control, and in his efforts as mayor to confront the junk food industry he revealed himself to be a nanny-stater in conservative eyes. However, Mr. Bloomberg could also be seen as a resident of Wall Street and he is not an advocate of tougher Wall Street regulations.
Mr. Bloomberg's affection for Wall Street, and his considerable wealth, appear to be the main reasons for his antipathy to Senator Sanders, who rails against Wall Street bankers and wealthy 1 percenters at every opportunity. He is not a man who wants the revolution the Vermont senator also calls for over and over. Senator Sanders' record on gun control is middling at best.
On balance, however, Mr. Bloomberg is far more of a Democrat than he is a Republican. In a three-way race among the former mayor, Mr. Trump and Senator Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg would almost assuredly take more votes away from the Democratic candidate than the Republican nominee. That could tip the election to Mr. Trump or send the election, if none of the three collects the electoral votes needed to win, to the Republican House, which would then choose Mr. Trump.
Shades of Ralph Nader!
The consumer advocate has accomplished a lot of good, but he will almost certainly be most remembered for his ill-considered run for president in 2000, his premise being that there was no real difference between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush. Mr. Nader's presence, combined with hanging chads in Florida and a biased Supreme Court, gave the election to Mr. Bush. The differences between the two mainstream candidates sharply manifested themselves in a variety of ways, most notably a disastrous Iraq invasion, an economic collapse generated largely by deregulation and massive tax cuts, and stagnation on the environmental protection front.
There is no denying that the Democratic and Republican parties have made a mess of the American election system. Our founding fathers feared their creation but couldn't find a way to avoid them. While a third party and/or independent presidential candidacy has obvious appeal to disgruntled voters, the two dominant parties have so stacked the deck in their favor financially and in defining the rules of the electoral system that even a candidate as rich as Mr. Bloomberg can't realistically mount a successful campaign. At best — or worst — an independent candidate can be a spoiler in the Nader mode, which is potentially disastrous for the nation.
There are plainly dramatic differences between Democratic candidates Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who has so far passed the Bloomberg test, and the coarse, bullying Mr. Trump and the self-righteous right-wing radical Mr. Cruz. For Mr. Bloomberg, life is good, and his advocacy of the cause to reduce gun violence in America is great and necessary given the financial pull of the National Rifle Association. There is so much that he can do to benefit Americans. As a presidential candidate, no matter how well-intentioned, Mr. Bloomberg would most likely do harm.