Michael Bloomberg’s political career has been steeped in controversy and his campaign for president is no exception. Besides rebranding himself as “Mike,” Bloomberg is garnering attention for paying popular meme pages (particularly on Instagram) to post content about him. Although some of the memes seem like satire, they cultivate a self-aware and in-touch image of Bloomberg which is not reflected in his political history or current platform.
Although some think the meme campaign is creative and funny, it points to a problematic reality regarding Bloomberg’s campaign. Bloomberg is financing his campaign with his own personal wealth of over $60 billion, meaning his public presence is a reflection of his own money rather than campaign contributions from people who are passionate about him being the Democratic nominee. Although he is relatively new to the primary race, the amount Bloomberg is spending on ad campaigns means he is everywhere.
His team claims they are using memes as a new way to engage with the Internet, but the ad campaign also distracts voters from the reality of who Mike Bloomberg is as a politician. The memes have no content about policy or initiatives, but are trying to sell an image of Bloomberg that doesn’t match reality.
Bloomberg is infamous for his controversial stop-and-frisk policy implemented during his tenure as mayor of New York City. Under stop-and-frisk, police officers had the right to temporarily detain a person they suspect of a crime and search them for weapons or other illegal items. The policy disproportionately affected Black and Latino communities in New York City and its effectiveness is questionable at best.
At the most recent Democratic debate, Bloomberg was confronted by Sen. Elizabeth Warren for misogynistic comments he made about women in the past. "None of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told [sic]," responded Bloomberg. His dismissal of Warren’s critique is not only outdated but refuses responsibility for people he hurt with his comments.
It is also noteworthy that Mike Bloomberg has switched his party affiliation multiple times. He was a Democrat before 2001, a Republican from 2001-2007 (his time as mayor), an Independent from 2007-2018, and a Democrat again since 2018. It is not a mistake that his changes in party affiliation align with his campaigns. He uses party identity as a vehicle for political opportunity, rather than as a reflection of his political beliefs.
How do these problematic elements connect? Mike Bloomberg’s attempt to buy young voters through expensive memes is lazy. It would be much more effective and moving if he had ad campaigns explaining how he would improve relations between police and black and Latino communities, or explaining how he understands that sexist “jokes” about women lead to a dangerous environment for them.
Instead of putting the effort in to become an interesting nominee with innovative policy, Bloomberg is trying to use his money to mask the reality of what he would do as president. He is an old, white, wealthy, former Republican who continues to have a complicated relationship with women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Unfortunately for Bloomberg, young people are more informed and motivated than ever to enact change and elect people who properly represent their interests. They cannot be bought through ironic meme pages. While it may not yet be clear who will receive the Democratic nomination, it is unlikely it will be someone with such an inconsistent, damaging, and out of touch political career.