Bloomberg and Personal Hatred of Trump
A year ago today (God this election has been long) I wrote some thoughts on Klobuchar entering the race after she got the better of Trump in some Twitter exchange:
If she [Klobuchar] can keep getting into Twitter fights and other confrontations with Trump then she can get a huge amount of free media just like Trump did. Democrats who think it’s enough just to beat Trump and think the only way to do it is to beat him at his own game rather than appeal to people with bold policy proposals will say these exchanges show that Klobuchar is the one who can get the job done and that we’d better vote for her for that reason.
This didn’t pan out, although Klobuchar was so proud of besting Trump on Twitter one time that she’s repeated it in several speeches.
However, someone who has capitalized off of the above strategy is Mike Bloomberg, who recently jumped into the race. Take a look at this tweet, and more importantly some of the replies:
Let’s get this straight: Bloomberg is terrible, perhaps as bad as Trump, and perhaps even worse. I won’t go into all the reasons why but this piece lays out many, though by no means all, of the reasons Mike Bloomberg would be a terrible nominee and an even more terrible President.
But despite Bloomberg being not just a Republican who happens to have a “D” next to his name at this particular moment but a Republican remarkably similar to Trump in every way, there are many who are loving his campaign. Why? Because he’s going after Trump. On Twitter and in his ads he attacks him relentlessly and personally. And for some people that’s all that matters.
Why are there so many Democrats who hate Trump but will defend Bloomberg? Part of it is his largesse of course, and their hopes that they will become a beneficiary of it, if they haven’t already. And part of it is just empty tribalism, that sanctified “D” next to Bloomberg’s name absolving him of all sin. But that’s not all there is to it.
A sizable number of Democrats don’t hate Trump for any of his bad policies. If they hated Trump for his policies they would have at least been critical of Obama and Clinton for enacting mildly less awful versions of most of those policies. They use the policies as an excuse to justify their preexisting hatred of Trump, and they hate policies because Trump supports them rather than the other way around. That explains their reflexive opposition towards Trump the few times he’s doing something right, like engaging in peace talks with North Korea.
It also explains how their dubious efforts to compare Bernie Sanders to Trump because Bernie has things in common with Trump that are actually neutral or even good, like having large rallies. Because Trump has large rallies, large rallies are bad, and Bernie is suspect for having them. Although this sort of thing is only applied to Bernie. When other establishment Democrats share similarities with Trump, even actual substantive similarities in harmful policies or record, these are ignored or excused.
Some of these people who hate Trump for reasons other than his harmful policies do so because of his rhetoric, and while hateful rhetoric can lead to harm I don’t think it outweighs actual actions. But even in terms of rhetoric Mike Bloomberg has said some loathsome things on par with Trump’s worst.
Some on the left who criticize liberals and centrist Democrats for not hating Trump based on substance and policy accuse them of only hating him for aesthetic reasons. They hate him not because of his rhetoric being hateful but just because he’s obnoxious, boorish, and crass. And while there’s some truth to that it still isn’t a good explanation because the same could be said for Biden and Bloomberg, whom they defend. Even Trump hasn’t put his hands on people who challenge him at campaign events like Biden (although egging his supporters into vigilante violence is arguably worse).
So what other explanation could there be? I think it’s partly that they think Trump is stupid, and they hate seeing a person dumber than they perceive themselves to be in a position of power. These people fetishize intelligence, or rather the trappings of intelligence, and pay no attention to what that intelligence is put to service towards. They’re the kinds of people who love that Buttigieg pretends he can speak 7 languages and that Warren supposedly has these detailed plans. It’s a technocratic mindset that ignores ideology, or rather that assumes that their neoliberal ideology is the default, and thinks that just putting the smartest person in charge is all that’s necessary.
And that fetishization of intelligence comes with an utter contempt and disdain towards people they view as unintelligent like Trump and his supporters, especially when they gain any position of power. If Trump did all the same things he does now and even says all the same things he does now but peppered it with 7-syllable words and references to classic literature, they wouldn’t care. Look at Boris Johnson. When he muttered a few half-remembered lines from The Iliad his liberal critics said things like “Well, even if you hate him you have to give him credit for that”. Actually no, I don’t.
So here we have a number of non-substantive reasons that people hate Trump, and when hatred of Trump is due to these reasons rather than his policies and principles it leads to such strange phenomena as the embrace of anyone perceived to be anti-Trump, from James Comey to John Bolton. These people would flock to David Duke if he came up with a clever insult against Trump.
And when they hate Trump for these reasons instead of his harmful policies their hatred tends to be personal. They don’t just want Trump to be defeated politically. In fact that’s secondary to what they really want, which is for Trump to suffer personally. They love the idea that Melania hates Trump and won’t hold his hand. They loved when they heard reports that Trump was afraid of running against Biden to the point that they supported him for that alone, not even because they thought Biden could actually beat Trump but because Trump was afraid he might. They love the idea that Bloomberg will make him feel inadequate because he’s so much richer than Trump (surely a winner with the struggling working class). And they love Bloomberg for his little tweets and ads, presuming that they’re getting under Trump’s skin.
Being anti-Trump shouldn’t be about personally hurting his feelings because you don’t like him personally. It should be about defeating his harmful policies whether those policies are enacted by Trump or a Democrat. And once you recognize that, it becomes obvious that Bloomberg is not the candidate for you.