BENNETT: Are 2 Billionaires Best Choice For U.S.?


Are 2 Billionaires

Best Choice For U.S.?

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

I am undecided.

After a year of run up to the Democratic primaries it seems safe to say party voters still don’t know who they want. The only thing they agree on is they want the candidate most likely to defeat Trump.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Yet the entire party is tied up in a Gordian knot of confusion about who that candidate should be. There is no obvious white knight with a sword sharp enough to slice through the knot.

I am a good example of the doubt within the party. I’ve generally believed the Democratic Party offered the best of the two feasible political choices available to me. Third parties have sometimes received my vote, but with my understanding that they had no chance of winning. Those votes were usually my small protests against the mainstream parties’ offerings.

I now see the current offerings of the Democratic Party as confusing, even bewildering. I understand that regardless of my primary vote the entire state will safely deliver its electoral votes to whomever is the chosen Democratic candidate. Still, I’d like to settle on a choice that makes me feel good about the direction of the party.

Joe Biden is the definition of the moderate Democratic candidate, but he seems to inspire no real following. He lacks the ability the incite passion in voters. He offers no agenda to fall in love with. Perhaps that’s an unfair criticism as moderates are by definition dispassionate, but I don’t see how such a candidate can defeat Trump, who lives for and by his passionate followers.

Elizabeth Warren is sharp, smart, and brimming with policy ideas and a strong desire to implement them. Yet her inherent policy wonkiness seems to be working against her. Proving again that it’s hard to become a passionate supporter of someone with a catalog of bullet-pointed white papers.

Pete Buttigieg is a creation of our times. He’s smart, personable, and admired as someone who has overcome an obstacle that would have excluded him from consideration as a presidential candidate even 20 years ago. But he seems to be politically untested in the kind of warfare that will be needed to defeat Trump.

Bernie Sanders has the ability to incite passion. He does so at every event. Contrary to the fears of both pundits and party elders, he isn’t a firebrand socialist.

FDR, perhaps the most loved president of the 20th Century, would have found Bernie a kindred spirit. He and Bernie reject the power of the wealthy and they champion the cause of the everyday person that is America’s supposed reason for being. Yet the press, the pundits, and the party believe he could not defeat Trump.

Enter Michael Bloomberg – a Republican running as a Democrat.  Perhaps as the last of the Rockefeller Republicans. Socially liberal, fiscally conservative, administratively competent, and theoretically insulated from corruptibility by his wealth, he appears to offer something other Democrats can’t offer. He simply pays his own way and owes nobody anything.

His wealth lets him compete without having to balance competing claims on him by interparty interest groups. His hubris rivals that of Trump, but he is much more adept as hiding it behind his screen of hyper-competency, something which Trump has neither the ability or desire to do.

He believes he can beat Trump. That he can match or exceed him in dollars spent. That he can offer the most rationally competent alternative to Trump. That he can run the country without the corruption and venality endemic to Trump. That he can win on dispassionate competency.

All this may be true, but will voters care? Or should they care? Is Bloomberg a strategic genius for avoiding the beauty pageant run-up to the primaries? Or is he just trying to buy the election? Is there real reason to believe he could best Trump?

Finally, is there a defensible reason American voters should have to make a choice between two putative billionaires?

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