While Michael Bloomberg's presidential campaign has been marked by ridicule, controversy, and at least one semi-hilarious prank, he's also won a few major endorsements, including from San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
That endorsement is, to say the least, unexpected: San Francisco is (at least performatively) one of the most progressive cities in the U.S., and Breed is the first black female mayor to lead it. Bloomberg, on the other hand, is the consummate old white guy. He's a moderate billionaire with little popular support but a vast personal fortune to deploy on his campaign.
As the former (Republican) mayor of New York, he's particularly famous for enforcing stop-and-frisk policing, which unfairly targets people of color and pulls them into the justice system, and also for taxing Big Gulps. His record as a philanthropist is more distinguished than his record as a political leader, and yet, London Breed isn't alone. Bloomberg has also gotten endorsements from the mayors of Oakland; Memphis; Washington, DC; Louisville, Kentucky; Flint, Michigan; and Tacoma, Washington, as well as from a handful of public figures like Michael Douglas, Tim Gunn, Sam Waterston, and (most importantly) John Cougar Mellencamp.
At this point, Bloomberg still seems like an unlikely winner—he decided to skip the first four primaries entirely—but he's spending an enormous amount of money in Super Tuesday states and, as forecaster Nate Silver wrote on FiveThirtyEight, "Bloomberg could easily become the nominee at a contested convention—and a contested convention is a reasonably likely possibility."
Bloomberg could, somehow, actually be a contender in this thing, so it seems worth asking: What are the dude's actual policy positions? Here are a few.
Climate change is undoubtedly where Bloomberg is strongest. According to Inside Climate News, he "has experience unmatched in the presidential field—in international diplomacy through the UN and the Financial Stability Board; in philanthropy through the Sierra Club and the state and local coalitions he helped to build; and in managing New York City through crisis and recovery." He's given many, many millions of dollars to groups fighting climate change (donations that, in some cases, have paused now that he's decided to run for President). He served as a UN climate envoy; launched America's Pledge, which asks cities, states, corporations, and major institutions to commit to the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Accord; and after Hurricane Sandy, he developed what Inside Climate News calls "the most ambitious city-level efforts in the world to mitigate and adapt to global warming."
His current policy plans, however, likely won't appeal to left-most portion of the environmental movement. He's said the Green New Deal "stands no chance" in the Senate (which is true, at least as long as Mitch McConnell runs it). He's also, however, said that the US should move to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. His way of getting there would be to retire all remaining coal plants in the US, phase out the construction of new gas plants, set strict limits on pollution and carbon emissions, end subsidies for fossil fuels, place a moratorium fossil fuel leases on federal lands, fast-track clean energy projects, and heavily invest in modernizing the energy grid and developing forms of clean energy.
He's also, unlike Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, open to nuclear energy, which many environmentalists despise but which provides over 50 percent of America's current zero-emissions power and will likely be required if we want to get off of fossil fuels in any kind of timely manner. He's committed to addressing the threat of wildfires in the West, including reducing wildfire-caused damages by 50 percent within four years in office. He also says he first act as President would be to re-join the Paris Agreement and that climate change would be a top priority when it comes to both domestic and foreign policy.
Bloomberg's education plan is noticeably thin. "As president," his campaign website reads, "Mike will make it a top national priority to increase student achievement, college preparedness, and career readiness." As for how, exactly, he would do that, he doesn't say, but as mayor of New York, Bloomberg pushed for the expansion of charter schools, a Democratic bugaboo that tends to be unpopular with public school advocates and teachers' unions. He's also endorsed expanding vocational and technical education, which, as he noted in 2015, can lead to greater income than a liberal arts degree from Harvard, with a fraction of the student debt. When it comes to tackling the student debt crisis, however, Bloomberg has been notably silent, which is unlikely to win him support among debt-burned millennials (not that they were going to vote for him anyway).
Bloomberg has endorsed a public option, but unlike the candidates to his left, he is not in favor of entirely dismantling the private insurance system. Basically, he wants to build on and improve the Affordable Care Act. He says he would expand enrollment and subsidies, increase standards for ACA plans, cap premiums at 8.5 percent of household income, include dental coverage in the public option, and work with Congress to lower drug prices and cap out-of-pocket drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries at $2,000 a year.
Housing and homelessness
In a proposal released last month, Bloomberg said he would cut homelessness in half by 2025 by increasing rental assistance for the lowest-income Americans and increasing the stock of affordable housing. He also says he'll use federal funds to help people afford down payments and transition from renters to home-owners, and he has set a goal of creating a million new African American home-owners. And he does have a track record on housing: As mayor of New York, he oversaw the development of the largest affordable housing program in the country.
That said, New York's housing crisis got worse during Bloomberg's time in office, and according to Curbed, "by the time Bloomberg left office, median rents had risen by 19 percent," some of which can be attributed to market forces and some of which falls squarely on Bloomberg's administration. He does, however, understand a few things: For one, you can't just build new housing without also building public transit, and he's said he would "prioritize new transportation funding for areas that have undertaken progressive zoning reform and reward municipalities that support affordable housing development in neighborhoods with good schools, transportation, and economic opportunity."
Bloomberg announced his gun violence plan in Aurora, Colorado alongside the father of a boy killed in the 2012 movie theatre massacre there. Like climate change, this is one of the issues where he's actually gone deep and has a detailed proposal as well as a history of philanthropic giving.
His plan calls for a national gun licensing system, stricter background checks, closing the private sale loophole, reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, repealing laws that make gun manufacturers and dealers immune from lawsuits, passing "red-flag" laws that would allow for the confiscation of guns from people deemed dangerous, and spending hundreds of millions to enforce existing and future gun laws. He's spent tens of millions of dollars supporting gun control groups and is further to the left of the rest of the pack when it comes to expanding laws designed to prevent gun violence. In fact, his plan is so comprehensive—and progressive—that immediately after he announced it, versions of it were adopted by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg, reports the New York Times.
When it comes to immigration, Bloomberg says he will end Trump's travel ban, protect both DACA and Temporary Protected Status holders (both programs imperiled by Trump), and focus on a place-based visa system that will, according to his plan, "allow localities to address unmet needs" by channeling immigrants into cities, towns, and rural areas that are losing both population and workers. (Also called “heartland visas," this idea is endorsed by some economists and entrepreneaurs.)
Bloomberg also calls for creating a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S., ending family separation at the border, and creating a "smart security" system to protect the border. He does not, however, call for an end to deportations, the dismantling of ICE, or free healthcare for undocumented immigrants, which opponents to the left of him have embraced.
There's a lot more where this came from—from opioids to infrastructure to e-cigs and vaping (he's against it)—and you can read all about it on his campaign website. While his strategy of trying to campaign by commercial is odd, there’s no way to predict the results of his strategy. No one has ever done it this way before. But new national polling has him in third place.