Chris Christie is expected to officially enter the already-crowded Republican 2016 field on Tuesday, and over the weekend he got things started by repeatedly tweeting out a link to his new campaign website. Then in a video posted Sunday night, he explained that his “blunt” style can be attributed to growing up with an Irish father and a Sicilian mother (which he often discusses in his speeches). Important details such as where he’s from (New Jersey), what he’s done for the state (a “record number of credit downgrades” and “lingering pension problems,” as the New York Times puts it), and why you probably know his name already (late-night jokes about his scandal-plagued administration) are omitted. It’s also a bit disappointing that he went with the tagline “Telling It Like It Is” when there are so many Springsteen songs that would make great campaign slogans. (How do you pass up “I’m on Fire … About Overhauling Social Security”?)
[B]ad systems corrupt good individuals [by] enlisting our self-interest to convince us to betray our values. And make no mistake: America’s campaign finance system is a disaster. Most candidates can’t self-finance their campaigns, so they spend a disproportionate amount of time asking the rich to donate to their campaigns. Those donations are limited to $2,800 per individual, but the Supreme Court believes political spending is a protected form of free speech, so the rich can spend as much as they want on their own campaigns, or on Super PACs to push their political agendas.
Populists like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and, in his complicated and contradictory ways, even Donald Trump, have risen in part because Americans loathe seeing their political system bought by the rich. Bloomberg isn’t so much a defense against those critiques as he is a confirmation of them. The populists say that politics is rigged, elections are bought by those with enough money to spend, modern liberalism is mere lipstick on perpetual corporatism. Bloomberg is here to test whether they’re right. He may pitch himself to centrists as an answer to the populists, but in leveraging his fortune to fight them, he offers the country the (hopefully) false choice between populism and oligarchy.