Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
In 2016, Donald Trump proved that money won’t buy you the Republican nomination. In 2020, his likely challengers are proving that not only can you buy the Democrat nomination, but it’s the best way.
Michael Bloomberg is making headlines for spending $300 million on advertising to buy third place. That doesn’t include the $10,000 spent on sushi, $250,000 on furniture, and six figure staffer salaries. With a $61 billion net worth, the billionaire just decided to buy the primaries. And his buying spree is working.
The Dems claim to hate billionaires, but two of them successfully bought into the race, Bloomberg and Steyer, while completely lacking the populist appeal that propelled Trump to the top. The Bloomberg-Steyer spending sprees have set off a dieback in the Dem 2020 race where only those candidates with lots of cash can even compete. Warren’s campaign is crumbling along with her financial prospects.
Steyer is cutting off Biden at the knees in South Carolina and Bloomberg will probably finish him on Super Tuesday. That will leave Buttigieg and Sanders as the only non-billionaires with a real shot.
What makes a socialist from Vermont and the failed mayor of a midwestern city competitive?
Money. Lots and lots of money.
Bernie Sanders raised $25 million in January. Buttigieg put together almost $3 million after Iowa.
While Bernie fulminates about the rich, he’s in second place and rising because he has so much more money to spend than his opponents, including Biden, do. That is the real secret of his success.
The socialist outspent his rivals by $15 million. He blew through $50 million in the final months of the year to buy the surge that put him over the top. In January, Bernie spent $8 million on ads, Buttigieg spent $6.5 million, Warren $5.4 million, while Biden was down to $2.4 million. Spending money doesn’t ensure results, but it certainly helps. Buttigieg’s “surprise” was really spending a lot of money.
Bloomberg and Bernie are both elderly New Yorkers with unpleasant personalities and a lot of cash. The distinction between buying an election with your own money or grassroots fundraising is virtue signaling. What does matter is that the 2020 nomination is for sale to those with the money to buy.
Enough money can make otherwise non-viable candidates like Bernie and Bloomy into ‘contendahs’.
Bernie’s fans will argue that his money comes from “small donors”. But what that leaves out is that the small donors are privileged lefties with lots of money to throw at elections. It was enough to buy Iowa, but the caucus results also showed that Bernie has no crossover appeal and isn’t boosting turnout.
Both Bernie and Buttigieg benefit from the same kind of money machine printed by an enthusiastic fan base. And the fan base sees the two men, less as viable presidential candidates, and more as a means of mainstreaming a larger campaign that they care about even more than winning an election. Bernie’s fans would trade losing the 2020 election for a takeover of the Democrats. That’s always the agenda.
And much of Buttigieg’s cash flow has come from gay donors who care less about him winning than about his presence on a national stage. Unlike the donors of the other 2020 candidates, who fold when their candidate stops being viable, the money machines funding Sanders and Buttigieg will never stop.
Much like Bloomberg and Steyer’s cash machines.
Bloomberg’s $61 billion fortune is formidable, but so is the net worth of Bernie and Buttigieg’s bases.
Biden’s donors have always been shaky. They’re investors, looking to buy influence, and aren’t going to sink good money after bad. They’re not going to keep spending money because they want to see Joe kissing little girls on the lips in Florida, groping matrons in Minnesota, or slurring speeches in South Carolina. Biden’s only real shot was sealing the deal out of the gate. And now he’s in trouble.
In the final quarter of the years, Sanders and Buttigieg both outraised Biden. Warren nearly did.
Where Trump had underspent his primary rivals, his prospective opponents are outspending them. And that’s good news for Trump and bad news for the Democrats who are going to be fighting a populist who got to the White House by beating money machines with another money machine candidate.
The Dem spending race is one reason why candidates who might have taken off with minority voters never got much traction. Building primary debates and fundraising around small donors allowed the passionate wealthy fanbases of Sanders and Buttigieg, or even Yang and Warren, to dominate the race. Meanwhile candidates who might have appealed to black voters never even got off the ground.
The two black candidates originally in the race, Harris and Booker, had little support in the black community, and had instead gotten as far as they did by cultivating wealthy white donors, Harris on San Francisco’s Nob Hill, and Silicon Valley and Manhattan for Booker, without ever building a black base.
They never did manage to pick up enduring black support in the race before their cash ran out.
If Biden collapses, the Democrats risk going into the 2020 race with a candidate who doesn’t appeal to black voters. That description covers Sanders, Bloomberg, and Buttigieg to varying degrees. And, without vigorous black turnout, the odds of a Democrat winning the White House are longer than long.
You can buy the nomination, but you can’t buy enthusiasm outside your narrow fanbase.
Bloomberg, at least, understands that and is going about buying the election in the most direct fashion. He’s avoided the debate stage until now, his campaigning is limited, and instead he’s spending a fortune on ads. He’s also paying influencers to tweet positively about him and, probably, buying endorsements.
The billionaire is trying to buy the nomination the same way his rivals are. He’s just not ashamed of it.
Bloomberg blew off the farce of the Iowa caucuses, the trek through New Hampshire diners, the pretense that this is about anything other than the thing he has more of than almost anybody else on the planet. Media bias? Bloomberg, the media outlet, is open about its campaign bias for its boss.
If this goes on, the 2020 primaries could narrow down to a battle between two deeply cynical campaigns headed by two New Yorkers, one a plutocrat and the other a socialist, with piles of money, and deep contempt for the process and the leadership of the party whose nomination they’re contesting.
Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat, except when running for the party’s nomination. Michael Bloomberg ran New York City as a Republican because the party was available and he bought it and a few others.
The 2020 Democrat nomination could very well come down to a race between two men who aren’t really Democrats, don’t care about the party, and are bypassing and trashing it at every opportunity.
The Sanders campaign is just the tip of the spear for a radical leftist takeover of the Democrats. Its base is animated by paranoia, malice and rage. Any primary Sanders loses must have been rigged. And every negative mention of Sanders is a neo-liberal conspiracy. They hate the Dems and the hatred is mutual.
At the 2016 convention, I spoke to Democrat delegates who, anonymously, voiced fear and distaste of the “crazy people”, as they often called Sanders supporters. Meanwhile, Sanders backers in Philly spoke of supporting the Green Party. No wonder, President Trump is cheerfully egging on the paranoia of the Sandernistas, convinced that the process is rigged against them, partly because it is, and partly because they’re projecting what they would do on to their opponents as totalitarian movements always do.
Bloomberg doesn’t have a campaign. He bought one by paying everyone working for him more. There’s no movement here. But, if Biden and Buttigieg fall, he becomes the default candidate of other Dems.
And Bloomberg’s political career comes down to spending enough money to be the default candidate.
In a field of terrible candidates, he aspires to be the boring candidate that the battered DNC spouses will settle for, who can buy a general election the way that he’s trying to buy the primaries. It’s cynical.
But so is the whole race.
What does it say about Democrats that they’re being bought? All the billionaire bashing, the attacks on Wall Street and Silicon Valley, the small donor qualifiers for the debate stage and the PAC virtue signaling were meant to establish that they weren’t about money, but about ideas and principles.
But much of the party, in poll after poll, appears to be willing to vote for anyone who will stop Trump.
It doesn’t matter if he’s a socialist or a plutocrat, or a guy with hair plugs deep in his brain. Democrats have shown that they have the same set of standards as any gold digger: a lot of money and a pulse.
In the polls, Democrats have shrugged off any interest in nominating a black person or a woman. They don’t especially care about policies. Their only concern is with electability and retaking the White House. And electability means a big campaign machine, a lot of ads, a lot of publicity, and a lot of money.
Billionaires are trying to buy the nomination because the Democrats prostituted their party. They put themselves up for sale to the highest bidder in a desperate effort to stop President Trump.
They didn’t expect a guy with $61 billion to show up.
But, after all the virtue signaling, just like any gold digger, they’re sending the message that he’ll do.