The specter of a possible independent presidential candidacy by New York City mayor and egocentric political maverick Michael Bloomberg has drawn some astute observations from John Zogby on the left and Cal Thomas on the right. Interestingly, they echo similar themes. Writes Zogby:
After more than a decade of harsh wrangling, likely voters tell me they are tired of the vicious partisanship. In a national telephone poll last month, 80% said it was “very important” that the next President be a person who can unite the country, and 82% said the same about the need for a competent manager. Bloomberg wins on both counts.
Another 58% said it was “very important” that the next President be able to cross party lines to work with political opponents, while just 42% said it was “very important” that he or she reflect the values of their own political party. As a Democrat-turned-Republican-turning-independent, Bloomberg fits the bill.
Put another way, the middle ground of the political electorate is expanding, the fringes are contracting, and Bloomberg could be sitting in the sweet spot.
Coming from the same page, Thomas explains:
The public is increasingly angry and frustrated with the extreme partisanship that passes for governing in Washington. Neither party seems to be willing to give the other a break. Neither appears ready to credit the other with any good ideas. Both indulge in finger pointing and focus on destroying the other. A growing number of us say it doesn’t matter which party is in charge, because both appear to act like the party of government. Republicans and Democrats seem to care more about gaining and maintaining power and position and seeing what they can get out of their tenure as “public servants” than they do about actually serving the public.
Since his re-election as an independent, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman has spoken and acted like a liberated man. In this, he sounds like Michael Bloomberg.
Despite the views prevailing in some quarters, Zogby explains how a potential Bloomberg candidacy could harm Democrats at least as much as Republicans:
An important side note: Contrary to conventional wisdom, my polling shows he would likely take more votes from the Democrat than the Republican. Those who consider themselves part of that growing “moderate” political class are 38% Democrats, 25% Republicans, and 38% independents.
Meanwhile, Thomas sees a lesson for both major parties and their eventual nominees in the upcoming 2008 campaign:
I could be wrong (or naive) – and it wouldn’t be the first time – but a candidate, or candidates, who run on a consensus or common ground theme might attract more attention than Republican and Democratic candidates who indulge their lower natures by claiming the “other side” is out to destroy the country and that electing the other person means Armageddon for us all.
The parallels between Bloomberg and Ross Perot are real and scary, though there are definite limitations to the comparison. Still, could we be on track for an eerie repeat of 1992 (or maybe a better analogy would be the 1912 campaign, when Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party created a legitimate, three-way race for the White House that opened up the door to Woodrow Wilson)? In our age of new media, much of the conventional wisdom may have to go by the wayside for 2008.