Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
July 8, 2020
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NIKKI RITCHER/CC BY 2.0 Michael Bloomberg has supported measures to fight climate change.

Hopkins alum and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he would enter the 2020 Democratic primary race on Nov. 24. 

Before entering politics, Bloomberg was a successful businessman. He made his initial fortune co-founding Bloomberg L.P. in 1981, a global financial services and mass media company. Bloomberg is currently the CEO and majority owner of the corporation. 

Sophomore Sam Bacon argued that Bloomberg’s business acumen is his greatest asset. He explained that the former Mayor’s business empire provides evidence that he can bring sorely-needed efficiency to the government. 

“He has built a company from the ground up. He has had an impact in the business space providing information and data to financial services careers in a way that nobody had ever done before. He is a man that seems to prize efficiency over everything else,“ Bacon said. 

In 2018 Bloomberg donated a record $1.8 billion to the University — the largest private donation ever made to a college. The donation allows Hopkins to be a loan-free and permanently need-blind university.

Junior Zainab Jimoh, a First-Generation, Limited-Income (FLI) student, expressed her skepticism about the intent behind the donation in an email to The News-Letter.

“Don’t get me wrong, I whole-heartedly appreciate his donation because it’s definitely helping me to afford attending Hopkins. However, I just question the sincerity of his donation. If he wasn’t planning to run for president, would he still have made such a large donation?” Jimoh wrote.

Hopkins College Democrats Co-President Ryan Ebrahimy believes that the donation may be a deciding factor in students’ voting. 

“On some basic level it is bribery to just automatically support Bloomberg because he gave the institution money, which directly impacts our financial aid. This could sway our student body to support Bloomberg, especially those who aren’t paying too much attention to the Democratic primary candidates,” Ebrahimy said. 

In an email to The News-Letter, freshman Lubna Azmi similarly expressed her belief that the donation may also foster a sense of debt toward Bloomberg. 

“I’ve read a segment in The News-Letter about how FLI students view it, feeling that it’s an obligation to support him because he aided in many being able to afford Hopkins. Being in the FLI community myself, I can definitely see where those feelings are rooted from,” Azmi wrote. 

Former President of the College Democrats Mikhael Hammer-Bleich added that he believes members of the Hopkins administration will support Bloomberg.

“Everyone knows that Ronald Daniels is very good friends with Bloomberg, so he’ll be donating to him, but I don’t think he will be scrutinized for it. That’s how politics works — you help your own, you donate to your own, you endorse your own, you vote for your own,” Hammer-Bleich said. 

Hammer-Bleich explained that Bloomberg’s support of controversial stop-and-frisk policing during his tenure as mayor of New York City might be damaging to his presidential run.

Stop-and-frisk policies allow police officers to detain, question and search civilians for weapons based on their reasonable suspicion of a criminal act. Under his term as mayor of New York City, the New York Civil Liberties Union reported that street stops increased by over 600 percent. In 2011, black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops, though they only comprise 4.7 percent of the city’s population. 

Hammer-Bleich stated that in the general election, Trump would be able to leverage Bloomberg’s former support of stop-and-frisk, an issue that may prove decisive among African American and liberal white voting communities. However, Trump too has vigorously supported stop-and-frisk policies.

“Trump would say that Bloomberg is the ‘Stop and frisk god,’” Hammer-Bleich said. “Even if it doesn’t necessarily get African Americans to vote for Trump, it will hurt Bloomberg.”

Despite his long-standing defense of stop-and-frisk, Bloomberg apologized for the contentious policy on Nov. 17, a week before he announced his bid for presidency. Current data shows that stop-and-frisk has little correlation to reducing crime.

Despite polling as the most popular of New York City’s last three mayors, Bloomberg does carry other controversies from his time as mayor. He had been a Democrat for his entire life until 2001, when he switched his party registration to run for mayor of New York City as a Republican. He left the Republican Party in the middle of his second mayoral term in 2007 and won his third term in 2009 as an Independent. 

Michael Leff, treasurer for the College Republicans, sees Bloomberg’s varied political affiliations as further complicating to his path to the nomination. 

“He has a lot of baggage from being mayor of New York, like he was initially a Republican and then an Independent then a Democrat,” Leff said.

Bloomberg is entering an already bloated primary race, with 15 major candidates competing for the nomination. Sam Schatmeyer, a junior and a former intern for Councilman Zeke Cohen, wrote in an email to The News-Letter that Bloomberg’s entrance is unnecessary.

“There’s no desire for more candidates among the broad electorate,” Schatmeyer wrote. “And ESPECIALLY not candidates like Bloomberg (socially liberal, fiscally regressive). Instead the sense I get is that people want economic progressives with more of a cultural conservatism.”

Schatmeyer added that Bloomberg may have been able to effect more change by donating his money rather than campaigning for the primary nomination.

“I think the real shame of the whole candidacy is how all that money could be spent in support of other vitally important progressive causes,” Schatmeyer wrote. 

Similarly, Leff noted that Bloomberg’s 2016 support for Republican Pat Toomey shows his capacity to work effectively with both parties.

“Bloomberg, partially because he is funding himself and partially because he does not rely on others, is going to be able to articulate what he believes and what he thinks, and not have to worry as much about displeasing the other major candidates in the field,” Leff said. “I think he can propose things that will actually pass Congress, rather than pie-in-the-sky proposals that have been offered by other candidates.”

In similar appreciation for Bloomberg’s moderate stance, Hammer-Bleich envisions a bipartisan coalition in support of Bloomberg to defeat Trump. 

“I hope there would be a coalition of College Democrats and Republicans that would endorse him. I would wish that they would both put out a joint endorsement of him early on and would be followed by other universities, saying that this candidate can be accepted by both parties and is better than the current president,” Hammer-Bleich said. 

Leff said that the College Republicans have not discussed the possibility of endorsing a Democratic candidate. Trump is being challenged for the Republican nomination by discontent members of his party, including Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and former Ohio U.S. Representative Joe Walsh. 

“At this point we are not endorsing any candidates — Republican or Democrat. We are waiting to see how the Republican primary shapes up,” Leff said. “Some individuals on the executive board and the group as a whole will end up supporting either an independent or the Democratic nominee, but that depends on if the Democrats nominate a sensible moderate or if they go to the extremes.”

Co-President of the Hopkins College Democrats Sylvana Schaffer stated that the organization will endorse whoever is chosen as the Democratic nominee, but that she had mixed feelings on Bloomberg’s moderate position.

“He’s running on this message of being more moderate... and it’s a tired narrative at this point,” Schaffer said. “We saw Obama try that with wanting to compromise and working with the Republicans and it was great and he really genuinely believed in that, but then the Republicans showed that they were not willing to do that during his presidency.” 

Bloomberg told The New York Times that he aims to defeat Trump and rebuild America. He announced that he will finance his campaign entirely out of his own pocket, refusing to accept third-party donations, and he has already used a small fraction of his over $58 billion net worth to fill television airtime with commercials and to encourage voter registration in swing states. 

Schatmeyer wrote in an email to The News-Letter that he also finds Bloomberg’s wealth to be a deterrent to his campaign. He cited this as an example of Democratic Party hypocrisy. 

“It’s ridiculous that he’s running. It really shows the disconnect between Wall Street Democratic elites and the electorate. It’s a waste of money fueled by mega rich hubris,” Schatmeyer wrote. 

Ryan Ebrahimy, co-president of the College Democrats, also finds Bloomberg’s private financing to be a concern. He argued that it bypasses the early stages of campaigning, where candidates seek public support and donations by appearing reachable and involved. 

“Grassroots campaigning puts emphasis on the individual and empowers voters because it shows that the candidate is directly reaching out to people and building on those personal one-on-one interactions,” Ebrahimy said. “Bloomberg doesn’t need to do that, he can just rely on his wealth to reach out to voters.”

Despite this wealth, some students believe that there is still a place for youth to rally for Bloomberg.

In support of Bloomberg’s campaign, sophomore Sam Bacon has started an informal nonpartisan club called Hopkins Students for Bloomberg.

“The purpose of this group is to demonstrate [to Bloomberg] that students of his alma mater support him, not just because he went here but because many students here benefit from the good works that he has put into this institution,” Bacon said.

Bacon believes that Hopkins students, with their bright ideas and strong work ethic, can provide valuable support to Bloomberg’s campaign. Bacon explained that he has worked in a number of political offices and recognizes the power students have to affect change. 

“The more we can do as a student organization to mobilize our peers and youth voters, the more strength that a candidate like Michael Bloomberg would have. And the more we can get involved in trying to support his candidacy, the better,” Bacon said. 

Rudy Malcom contributed to reporting for this article.

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