Michael Bloomberg

What Would Samuel Adams Think of Michael Bloomberg's Campaign?

"I hope our country will never see the time, when either riches or the want of them will be the leading considerations in the choice of public officers," Adams wrote in 1776.

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This Presidents Day, I am thinking of John Hancock.

Hancock was president of the Continental Congress, the body that named George Washington general of the Continental Army. Hancock was the Michael Bloomberg of his day—a politician simultaneously appreciated for his great wealth and resented for it.

I tell this story in my biography of Samuel Adams. John Hancock had inherited a fortune of what today would be about $15 million from his uncle, the merchant Thomas Hancock. John Hancock may have used some of this money to help Adams, who was poorer, pay off debts Adams owed.

While Adams and Hancock were allies against King George III, they were also rivals in Massachusetts politics. John Adams once reported that Samuel Adams "had become very bitter against Mr. Hancock, and spoke of him with great asperity in private circles."

In Philadelphia in late 1775, Samuel Adams was annoyed to learn that Hancock had planned a ball, which seemed extravagant and inappropriate under the wartime circumstances. In January 1776, Samuel Adams wrote to his fellow patriot Elbridge Gerry, "I hope our country will never see the time, when either riches or the want of them will be the leading considerations in the choice of public officers." The letter went on to contend that "giving such a preference to riches is both dishonourable and dangerous to government," indicating "a base, degenerate, servile temper of mind."

When John Hancock was elected governor of Massachusetts in 1780, Adams pronounced himself "chagrined" and "disappointed" at the result. Yet the two men eventually reconciled, and Samuel Adams wound up serving as lieutenant governor under Hancock.

When the wealth of presidential candidates emerged as a campaign issue during the previous election cycle, I wrote a column concluding, "Wealth can buy admiration but it can also bring isolation. Samuel Adams had a point when he cautioned against it becoming a big factor in voter decisions. We'd be better off spending less time thinking about how much money the candidates do or don't have and more time considering how likely their policies are to help enrich or impoverish the rest of us."

What was true of Trump then is true of Bloomberg now. One hears Blooomberg's wealth cited as a reason to oppose him. "Michael Bloomberg came in on the billionaire plan—just buy yourself the nomination," Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, another contender for the Democratic nomination, said recently. Senator Bernie Sanders has made similar statements: "We have an individual worth some $60 billion, who is in an unprecedented way, trying to buy the election….We are going to defeat a billionaire."

One also hears Bloomberg's wealth mentioned as a reason to vote for him—it can buy, the argument goes, lots of well-crafted campaign commercials against Donald Trump. That is more anti-Trump commercials than the non-billionaire candidates will be able to afford. Perhaps this higher volume of commercials will increase the chances of defeating Trump, a goal that is dear to Democratic primary voters.

Hancock's money helped to buy him the presidency of the Continental Congress and the governorship of Massachusetts, but it never made him president of the United States. He died in 1793, his fortune largely diminished by war, inattention, and mismanagement.

Other candidates who followed had greater success in purchasing the office. John F. Kennedy joked at the 1958 Gridiron dinner that he had received a telegram from his wealthy father: "Jack—Don't spend one dime more than is necessary. I'll be damned if I am going to pay for a landslide." (This is sometimes rendered as "don't buy a single vote more than necessary.") That joke was less funny if you were Hubert Humphrey or Richard Nixon.

In America, journalists and professors may envy or even hate the rich. Most of the rest of the population, though, has traditionally devoted less energy to hating millionaires and more energy to trying to get rich themselves, or at least to emulate their lifestyles.

Bloomberg's candidacy will be a test, in part, of whether this remains true even of the Democratic primary electorate. Will the voters be bitter toward the billionaire the way that Samuel Adams sometimes was toward Hancock? Or will they appreciate Bloomberg's willingness, like Hancock's, to spend his fortune to advance their cause? And if, like Samuel Adams, today's voters sometimes feel both these emotions at once, how will that translate in the voting booth?

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  1. Samuel Adams “had become very bitter against Mr. Hancock, and spoke of him with great asperity in private circles.”

    Forsooth, he is a fornicating vaginal stain.

    1. But his beer isn’t bad.

  2. Jesus Ira. Most of the Founders were relatively wealthy land owners.

    Trump won in spite of his wealth. My support for Trump today comes from his desire to help America overall and give every American a fighting chance to work hard and create wealth. Trump is clearly not serving as President to make money.

    Bloomberg is disliked because he is an authoritarian hack piece of shit.

    1. “Bloomberg is disliked because he is an authoritarian hack piece of shit.”

      That’s why we dislike him, there are those on the left who dislike him entirely because he’s wealthy. They view being wealthy as some kind of moral failing. The nannying is fine, they just want a slightly less rich person to nanny them.

      1. They view being wealthy as some kind of moral failing.

        Because they can’t envision *themselves* becoming wealthy without being back-stabbing sleaze balls.

        1. That really is it. They think wealth is a zero-sum game, so if one person became wealthy it must have been at someone else’s expense. The idea that someone can get wealthy without exploiting other people doesn’t compute.

          1. Or, as one freshperson member of Congress put it, “you don’t make a billion dollars, you take it”

            1. Cortez is being primaried by Ana Cabrera (former CNN anchor). With any luck, she’ll be back to screwing up drink orders on inauguration day.

          2. Taken to its logical conclusion. If the economy is a zero sum game, we never would have invented fire, the wheel, or moved out of caves.

            Progressives sure are drooling idiots.

    2. If you’re in favor of local control as opposed to federal dictates, don’t live in NYC. Live in West Virginia.

      I have a hunch you weren’t shedding any tears over predominantly black & brown youth being stopped & frisked. I can appreciate a principled argument against Bloomberg’s position on gun control, but if you think a national soda drink size ban is coming, you’ve got to get a grip. Even New Yorkers laughed that one away.

      If you really think the man whose name is synonymous w/ Wall Street is going to destroy capitalism, then I suppose anyone to the left of Attila the Hun won’t cut it for you.

  3. “We’d be better off spending less time thinking about how much money the candidates do or don’t have and more time considering how likely their policies are to help enrich or impoverish the rest of us.”

    Indeed. And “enrich or impoverish” in a broad sense.

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  5. Because Hancock’s feared pre-colonial wealth (largely doled out to families by hereditary monarchs and then inherited) is exactly like Bloomberg’s self-made wealth. I hate the NYC version of civil rights, but leave this guy alone about money. Imagine how rich he’d be if prejudice against Jews was at it’s current level his whole career.

    1. For a long, long time in the US–and even more so, the UK–the idea of scrappy lower-class or middle-class kid (especially if Jewish) was seen by the blue blood elite as “vulgar” or “unseemly.” This attitude persisted while the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps / self-made man” ethos was just beginning to grow.

      Much of the colonial and early American wealth was inherited–directly or indirectly, as you point out–from the British nobility. Or on the backs of slaves “owned” by “gentleman farmers” who didn’t really do anything resembling “work.”

      Trump inherited his wealth, but his father was a real estate developer in Queens. Not exactly the stuff of the Hamptons crowd.

      Prejudice against Jews was quickly declining as Bloomberg (and Trump) got older. Current spikes in anti-Semitism are troubling, but it’s unclear their origins. Certainly Trump has unleashed some right-wing demons, which he’ll gladly exploit (despite having a Jewish daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren). But what is under-reported, of course, is that much of it comes from Muslim sources. And unfortunately Black-Jewish tensions have upticked in mretro areas, too. Crimes against Hasidic Jews in NYC and its environs aren’t being waged, for the most part, by the neo-Confederate crowd (not very many of them in NYC).

      I also agree w/ you that attacking Bloomberg for his money is a mistake. He’s been successful and earned it (unlike Trump). He just happens to be a classic rich liberal–or, really, a Rockefeller Republican trapped in the wrong decade. There’s no inconsistency or hypocrisy. Just like there’s none w/ Warren Buffet.

      With Trump, however, there’s just a mountain of hypocrisy, incoherence, and amoralism.

      1. I care about his ideology. I only care about his money to the extent it is used to support his ideology.

  6. All the support I have heard for Bloomberg (what little there is) has been due to his experience as Mayor of New York. While it’s just a mayorship, it is of the largest city in the country. It’s hard to argue that the Mayor of New York (8 million people) is meaningfully below the governor of a small state such as Wisconsin (6 million). From an experience standpoint, he’s not an absurd candidate.

    To be frank, Bloomberg seems self-defeating. Most of the criticism is his ad campaign and the accusation that he’s trying to buy the election. Surprisingly, the controversial programs he put into place during his mayorship haven’t been nearly as big as they should have been. If he had come in with a quarter the budget, He might be the front runner by now.

    1. I don’t think coming in with a quarter of the budget would’ve worked. Outside of NYC no one has any idea who he is, he’s spent $400+ million correcting that problem.

      To the extent he has support, it’s because he’s wildly out-advertised everyone so he has name recognition. As sad as it is, some people will really go with whoever they heard about on TV.

      It also helps that he’s running against a couple communists, a lifetime swamp creature who got wrapped up in a very public corruption investigation, and a gay dude who’s only experience is running a town the size of a NYC gas station. The Democrats don’t have any strong candidates, so Bloomberg is comparatively stronger than he’d normally be.

      1. Bloomberg’s success is proof of how desperate the Ds are. They have no coherent ideological drive, just opposition to Trump a pursuit of arbitrary and capricious State supremacy.
        They hate Trump, Trump supporters, conservatives, libertarians, Americans, etc and they’re candidates are a bunch of clowns. That is enough to propel Bloomberg to the tops of the polls.
        They can’t agree on their own purity tests and can’t articulate why they are so upset.
        Fun times

        1. So the mass of this election will be not-Trump vs not-Democrat. Sounds amazing.

        2. Brokered convention here we come. I just can’t see the Berniebros, who may comprise 25-30% of teh Democrats, getting behind this guy. He will pay his way to the nomination, but will hatred of Trump [and his supporters] be enough to make them hold their noses and vote, again?

          1. They wouldn’t hold their noses and vote for Hillary and I’d think they’d dislike Bloomberg more than Hillary.

            They’re communists though and perhaps I’m overestimating their ability to think rationally.

            1. I agree. I think the evidence that Bernie Bros didnt vote for Hillary shows that they wont do it, if the Bern is not felt.

              With that being said, maybe they thought Hillary would win anyway, so they could have their protest vote. The fact that Trump won means that they might vote after they decide which is worse: Trump or being utterly back stabbed.

              A largely unspoken goal is to burn the USA to the ground and have Communism rise from the ashes. Anarchists are mostly the same way. I don’t think democratic takeovers of nations and turning them Communist has any examples that work in over 103 years since the Russia Revolution.
              These Commies might consider Trump their best route to Civil War 2.0 anyway.

          2. Last week I heard an interview with a Brent Bozell. He was talking about a number of focus groups he conducted with democrats. When talking to the Bernie supporters, a number of them told him they would vote for Trump if they believed Bernie were cheated out of the nomination.

            If that turns out to be statistically true, the de o rats are in even bigger trouble than already thought

      2. Outside of NYC no one has any idea who he is, he’s spent $400+ million correcting that problem.

        He’s spending that money precisely so that no one has any idea who he is.

  7. ” . . . just buy yourself the nomination . . . ”
    The real problem the democrats have with the money Mike is spending is that it is his money, and he earned it. They have no control over him like they would get if he needed DNC funds.
    This may be good, it may be bad, but it is the real reason they openly hate him.
    (Along with hating everybody else)

    1. If anything, it should endear him as being more corruption-proof. Bloomberg is an authoritarian, nannying piece of shit; but he doesn’t need a single cent of anyone else’s money and he never will.

  8. This hand wringing about wealth is a charade. The democrats have not really given a shit about those of lesser means since Bill Clinton first ran as a “business friendly” democrat. Bloomberg is the end result of them finally having become the Rockefeller Republicans. Note also that they are not at all the party of woke either-that too is a farce, just like how they claimed to be anti-war when they were running against GWB.

  9. Sam Adams would say his beer had a smooth, hoppy taste and everyone should buy some.

    1. Sam Adams beer is a fraud. It hasn’t been brewed in Boston since it’s very early days and has been owned by one of the majors for at least 20 years now…

      1. Sam Adams beer was never primarily brewed in Boston. Even now, the Boston brewery is only used for experiments and small batch (and beer tours). Until they bought the Cincinnati brewery in the mid/late 90s, they leased brewery facilities from other brewers. The have another brewery in PA somewhere, but I don’t know when they bought it.

        They were never owned by any big brewer, but they did go public. Jim Koch still owns a controlling interest the last time I checked (a while ago, but much more recent than 20 years).

  10. How the heck is the needle-dicked midget Mini Mike going to buy the presidency when he can’t even successfully buy the Virginia state legislature??

  11. What Would Samuel Adams Think of Michael Bloomberg’s Campaign?

    A billionaire? You’d think the cheap bastard could spring for a powdered wig!

  12. I dunno. What would he say about Donald Trump’s campaign?

    Besides the fact that all the Founders warned against morally depraved leaders, too.

    1. “Besides the fact that all the Founders warned against morally depraved leaders, too.”

      Fortunately, Hillary lost.

  13. But of course Samuel Adams wasn’t a Democrat. They’re only concerned about individuals throwing money at elections if they’re not Democrats. Koch=evil. Soros or Bloomberg=good.

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  18. Its going to be delicious seeing the Dems go full hypocrite when Bloomie buys the nomination from BernieBurn. Bloomie is everything they claim Trump to be. 2020! What a year this is going to be.

  19. I’m not a fan of Bloomberg, who seems in some ways like a more competent, hence more dangerous, version of Trump. But I think his wealth is an argument for nominating him, not against, for three reasons:

    1. Since he made it himself, it’s evidence of competence running things.
    2. It can buy ads in his support in the national election.
    3. It eliminates Trump’s “I am rich, so high status, so support me” implicit argument, since Bloomberg is richer.

    Part of what is interesting about the situation is that Bloomberg’s past acts and statements are sharply inconsistent with the expressed views of the current Democratic party. So it becomes a question of whether they are willing to ignore their stated principles in order to get Trump out, and/or in order to keep Sanders from taking over the party.

  20. Apply the NAP to government and it doesn’t matter who wins.

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