Though he was billed as a “uniter” who could appeal to skeptical independents, Bloomberg’s speech was still a risky one. It’s been a fairly rowdy convention so far and the culprits have mostly been members of the party’s economic left wing: people who oppose neoliberalism and free trade agreements like the TPP, and who think that combating income inequality is the most important issue facing the country today. Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire neoliberal technocrat who clearly represents the 1 percent-dominated economy that Sanders’s campaign opposed.
Furthermore, as mayor of New York, he helped make the city the unlivably expensive hell hole it is today. He busted Occupy, pushed stop-and-frisk, and seemed to be genuinely uninterested in the poor or (especially) the homeless. And, for what it’s worth, he is about as charismatic as a subway pole. I was sure he was going to get booed, and I was especially sure he was going to get booed when the crowd nearly shouted Leon Panetta off the stage.
But somehow he was not booed. Even more strangely, the crowd seemed to actually like him.
Bloomberg is not a good speaker, but he gave a good speech that was tailored to this crowd—something that can’t be said for Panetta’s ode to Clinton’s ability to manage America’s endless wars. He foregrounded his “no labels” ideology—stressing that he is not a Democrat or a Republican and that he thinks the two-party system stinks—and gently underscored that he and Clinton had their differences, which seems to have won over the loudest Sanders supporters who were still in the arena. And despite being a part of the exact establishment that Sanders’s campaign clapped back on, he came across as being genuinely independent, someone who came to the convention to speak his mind, rather than push an agenda.
Bloomberg also did a fine job of assaulting Trump’s credibility as a businessman and a billionaire, and that may be enough. “Let’s elect a sane, competent person” is not exactly “Yes, we can” but it certainly rings truer than a lot of the other things that have been said this election.