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Gustavo Gac-Artigas

Presidential Election 2020, Bloomberg and Pandora’s Box, All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Let’s envision the United States as a great garden, from North to South, from East to West, a great garden waiting for spring to arrive. But to bloom, a garden must be watered, not with money; watered with money it will give a homogeneous, colorless garden, without wild colorful flowers, while watered with ideas it will bloom with multicolored buds, flowers of different sizes and shapes, a throbbing garden, like life itself, our America.

Lately, and for a while, we’ve been constantly repeated, “in this election, the electorate”–that is, you and I–, should be only focused on choosing a candidate who can defeat Donald Trump. “Electability”, we are told, that’s all that counts.

First, they thought, with a pitiable outcome, it must be said, in Joe Biden. However, his candidacy did not take off, perhaps because he took refuge in the past and did not offer an agenda for the future, and the catastrophic present we are living in can’t be fought with solutions from the past. It must be fought with solutions for the future. He is still leading the pack, but like the horse that starts the race as an English champion and in the middle of it he goes from galloping to trotting and from trotting to snail’s pace.

The other moderates that the Democratic Party offered us, I wonder if they really have the support of the Party or are there simply as extras to accompany the chosen one, that providential being fallen from heaven that will “lead us to victory”.

And if I think about all this it is because startlingly, in a calculated magic act, almost like Trump’s, Mike Bloomberg came out from under the sleeve, a billionaire who, without asking anyone for a dime, apparently his best credential, invests millions and millions of dollars to reach the most important position in the world, the Presidency of the United States.

For years he has invested to win a base he thinks he can buy, a base who needs and cannot refuse non-selfless help to their neighborhoods, to schools, to social organizations. A candidate who climbs on the polls by investing millions in advertising, who buys air time on TV, who buys sympathy, who simply buys. A candidate who when confronted with his real self becomes pale, stutters and utters belated apologies. 

When confronted to his behavior towards women, he feels “disturbed” and, like another one we know, he blames the past, describes his words as “inappropriate”, but “acceptable language at the time”, or blames the fact of having employed so many women as a corporate man, as his campaign manager defends him. Apparently, the “64 women filing 40 lawsuits for sexual harassment and discrimination” is not significant. 

Big mistake. One harassed woman, one woman discriminated against, is too much; it was too much in the past, it is in the present, and if others do not come forward it is because of a confidentiality clause in their contracts when hired. If Bloomberg does not lift the clause, society will lift it and will defend them. 

In the past we had already one like him in the White House, in the present, we have another. Out of respect for women, out of respect for ourselves, please not one more.

During his 13 years as Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg endorsed and developed the most racist and dangerous policy against young African-Americans and Hispanics, “stop and frisk,” aggressive and dangerous policy against young minorities, those who, logically, according to him, live in the neighborhoods where “crime is concentrated, drugs, crime”. “You have to put them up “against the walls and frisk them,” over and over, at some point we’ll find their weapons and take them off the market, the former mayor exhorted. 

14 out of 10,000 youngsters stopped during the time the “stop and frisk” policy was in place were found with a weapon. 14 out of 10,000, impressively effective his policy.

During Bloomberg’s three terms as NYC mayor, the NYPD stopped, put against the wall, and frisked 5,081,689 young people from African-American and Latino descent. Today, five years later, “I apologize” the candidate utters quietly. I was wrong, he adds, I didn’t realize the impact, the suffering this caused in black and Latino communities. 

5,081,689 arrested because of the color of their skin, and “I did not realize the suffering this was causing”. How many do you need to notice? 

Imagine for a second what would have been the outcome of this policy if it had been endorsed by a president rather than a mayor.

And from his past, another statement emerges. And believe me, this is not about living in the past, but if I am to choose I have the right to know who am I choosing, it’s my future that’s at stake. 

The big economic crisis, he said, is the one to blame for the pressure on banks to lend money to “those people,” to buy a home. Those people like you, like me, those people who don’t have millions to buy a house but who still want a decent roof under which protect our family, our children.

No, thousand times no, it’s not about electing “anyone” for the sake of defeating Trump. It’s about choosing who we think is the best candidate to solve the problems of the country, the one whose program offers concrete solutions to improve our lives, the one who will fight so that health care, a college education, a decent salary, become rights for everyone and not only for those who have money or were born in a golden cradle. What is at stake is the future of the country, the country we want, the garden in which our children will play. 

Choosing someone blindly without confronting their thinking, their past, is the best recipe to pave the way to four more years of the incumbent president, especially when this one builds a wall and the other one puts us against the wall, you, me, our families. Because of the color of our skin, we were stopped, by the color of our skin we are judged, for the color of their skin they are stopped at the border or expelled from the country.

New York’s streets were never more dangerous to black and Latino minorities than during the time Bloomberg was in office.

And you better know it, if during the economic crisis we were pushed out from our neighborhoods it was to whiten them; our neighborhoods, our in the past, then out of our reach. It was to give peace of mind to the new owners, to increase the value of their homes. In the end, having a roof on their heads is an investment for some, not a right.

We ask all the candidates to debate, to leave the masks in the dressing room, respond for their actions, present their programs, not their wallets, and we, you, will decide who is the best candidate. And no one, no one will decide for us, neither today nor in July at the Democratic convention. And that no one dares to dream that their choice for vice president will cover the sun with a finger and turn off our voices, nullify our votes, trample our rights and decide for us.

I invite you, during the debates, to think not only of yourselves. Let’s also think about those who have the least. 

Let’s stop fearing words, let’s try to see what hides behind them, their real meaning. And don’t allow people to scare you with them. America is compassionate and believes in solidarity. As Gabriel García Márquez wrote, “a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground.”

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