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Michael Bloomberg Is No Defender of the Constitution

The former New York mayor's authoritarian record shows he has no real love for America's founding document.

Michael BloombergSHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS/NewscomNew York City's biggest fan of "stop and frisk" has registered (re-registered, really) as a member of the Democratic Party.

No, not President Donald Trump. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday formally registered as a Democrat, a gesture that may presage a presidential run in 2020. Bloomberg documented his registration with an Instagram picture that included the following statement:

At key points in U.S. history, one of the two parties has served as a bulwark against those who threaten our Constitution. Two years ago at the Democratic Convention, I warned of those threats. Today, I have re-registered as a Democrat—I had been a member for most of my life—because we need Democrats to provide the checks and balance our nation so badly needs.

I actually laughed when I read the statement. The very idea that Bloomberg is a protector of our constitutional rights is comical. Bloomberg is the archetype of the "Nanny knows best" authoritarian who will happily deprive you of your rights and your freedoms in the name of protecting you. In Reason's 45th anniversary issue, we highlighted him as one of our "45 Enemies of Freedom."

How does Bloomberg hate your freedoms? Let us count the ways.

He supports unconstitutional searches. Trump has been criticized, rightly, for recommending "stop and frisk" searches to fight crime in Chicago. Such stops are supposed to be based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity but frequently are not, which according to the Supreme Court makes them inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment.

As mayor, Bloomberg enthusiastically defended the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program, which at its peak stopped nine innocent people for every individual who was arrested or issued a summons. Most of those stops included pat-downs, which were supposedly based on reasonable suspicion that the targets were armed yet failed to find weapons 98 percent of the time. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices were unconstitutional, and the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, declined to appeal that decision. Although the program's supporters insisted it was crucial in preventing violence, crime rates continued to fall in the Big Apple as stop-and-frisk encounters dropped dramatically.

Last month Bloomberg defended stop-and-frisk practices in an interview with The New York Times, arguing that Democratic voters agree with him. "I think people, the voters, want low crime," he said. "They don't want kids to kill each other." The comment was a non sequitur, since stop and frisk is demonstrably not what is stopping kids from killing each other.

Reason coverReasonHe supports secret surveillance of citizens. Under Bloomberg, the NYPD engaged in extensive and secretive surveillance of Muslim citizens in an effort to track down potential terrorists. The NYPD and the city were sued after the Associated Press revealed that the police had built an extensive surveillance program that was snooping on Muslim groups, students, and businesses, monitoring them even when there was no evidence that they were planning any sort of terrorist activity.

Muslim citizens and privacy activists were outraged when the extent of the snooping was revealed. But Bloomberg has defended it, saying that it "saved lives," although the police later admitted it had not generated a single terrorism investigation. The A.P. reporters won Pulitzers for exposing the snooping.

He wants to limit Second Amendment rights. Bloomberg is spending millions to promote "universal gun background checks," a popular policy that he says will stop bad people from getting guns. But the policy, which requires a background check for all gun transfers, even when they do not involve federally licensed dealers, imposes a substantial burden on innocent people who pose no threat to public safety.

After analyzing one proposal supported by Bloomberg, gun policy expert Dave Kopel warned that "the bill would felonize a couple who are not legally married, but who share firearms at a target range," "the friend who lends a gun to a stalking victim for a few days," and "a member of the Army Reserve who is summoned to overseas deployment, and who stored personal guns with a sibling or a trusted friend."

If background checks worked as intended, they would stop millions of harmless people from buying guns. Federal law prohibits gun ownership by anyone who consumes cannabis, for instance, or who was ever convicted of a felony, violent or not. Meanwhile, of course, violent criminals could always buy guns on the black market.

He wants to control what you eat and drink. Bloomberg has a seemingly bottomless appetite for controlling what you consume. Most famously, he attempted to institute a ban in New York that would have stopped the sale of sugary drinks in sizes larger than 16 ounces. He failed, but he learned little from the experience, insisting, "We have a responsibility as human beings to do something, to save each other, to save the lives of ourselves, our families, our friends, and all of the rest of the people that live on God's planet."

Bloomberg also pushed for a reduction in the salt content of packaged and prepared food in New York City. As with sugary drinks, he said the mandate would protect our health. Yet the science does not, in fact, indicate that there's a widespread problem with the amount of salt in our food. Most Americans are not eating too much salt.

Bloomberg's impulse to turn medical studies into government edicts is a problem not just because it violates our personal freedoms but because our understanding of health science changes over time. The federal government regularly gives out what turns out to be bad dietary advice.

He wants to control what you smoke. It shouldn't come as surprise that a man who wants to keep you from eating sugar and salt also wants to stop you from smoking. He supports just about every government effort to meddle with people' smoking habits: smoking bans; higher cigarette taxes; restrictions on tobacco advertising; and bans on flavored tobacco products. Toward the end of his final term, New York City raised the minimum purchase age for cigarettes from 18 to 21. Not only has Bloomberg attacked smoking, but he wants to treat tobacco-free e-cigarettes as though they're the same as conventional cigarettes, even though they are far less hazardous.

The upshot of Bloomberg's efforts to make it harder for New Yorkers to smoke has been a massive cigarette black market. One result of that was the deadly 2014 encounter between the NYPD and Eric Garner, who essentially was choked to death for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

Leaving office hasn't stopped Bloomberg from trying to control what you do with your body. He contributed $1.8 million to the successful effort to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes in San Francisco.

Bloomberg is also down on marijuana legalization, calling the very idea of medical marijuana one of the "great hoaxes of all time" as recently as 2015. Under Bloomberg's rule as mayor, the NYPD continued to arrest people for marijuana possession even after the state changed the law to make it a citable offense like a traffic violation.

Below, Reason TV bid Bloomberg a not-very-fond farewell when his three terms as mayor ended:

Photo Credit: SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    formally registered as a Democrat

    I haven't googled it yet, but wouldn't that be more accurately described as "formally re-registered as a Democrat"?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Yep.

    Bloomberg goes back home - to the Democrats

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rejoined the Democratic Party on Wednesday, going back to his political roots weeks before the Nov. 6 congressional elections and amid speculation that he might run for the White House in 2020.
  • Scott S.||

    I added a little re-registered note. I didn't think it mattered but of course I think party affiliation is generally bullshit anyway so I have a bias.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    No, Scott, it doesn't matter, and I'm not nitpicking on you, I was just struck because I had almost forgotten that he started his political career as a Democrat.

  • Mickey Rat||

    It confirms, for any who would argue otherwise, that his sojourn as a Republican was always pure opportunism. He is openly what he always was, in the proper home of his political philosophy.

  • Eric L||

    And yet I keep hearing from the left that it is the Republicans who are the party of and for the billionaires. Nice the see the Democrats are still the party of the little guy ;)

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Michael Bloomberg is a swine and a control freak.

  • wareagle||

    so he's your basic authoritarian. Of course, he's going to portray himself as a defender of the Constitution. It's kind of what they do, isn't it?

  • Woody Chip Hurrrrr?||

    Defender of the Constitution because he thinks it can't defend itself with its own words. He has to supply the logic and words that it was deprived of.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Stop and frisk must continue to weed out those who might be carrying firearms.
    These unenlightened miscreants must be found and punished if we are to have a true socialist utopia.
    Only our ruling elitist turds enslaving should have firearms, along with their body guards.
    Guns only tempt the oppressed to do something about their repression, and that could lead to dire consequences to our beloved ruling class.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    As a libertarian, I'll of course be voting for whoever ends up being the Democratic nominee in 2020. Bloomberg isn't my first choice though. It wouldn't be much of a victory for diversity if yet another straight white cis-male got elected. And stopping and frisking black and brown bodies is obviously a misguided policy.

    I will say this in Bloomberg's defense however. Despite his authoritarian views on many issues of bodily autonomy, he's a staunch defender of the most important right of all — the right to access abortion care. That alone makes him better from a libertarian POV than Drumpf or any other Republican.

    #SaveRoe
    #StandWithPP

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    As a libertarian, I'll of course be voting for whoever ends up being the Democratic nominee in 2020.

    Makes one wonder how many heads would explode if Trump returned to the Democratic party just as Bloomberg has.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    The Democratic Party might not be perfect, but there's no way they'd welcome back someone who literally ripped children from their parents' arms.

    #AbolishICE

  • Rockabilly||

    OBL - If ice is abolished, how will the peoples make refreshing drinks?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    That's not funny. You need to read more Shikha Dalmia columns to understand what a human rights emergency the Drumpf Administration has created with its draconian immigration policies. It's not an appropriate topic for jokes.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    You've got a great comedy routine there, the only defect is that people who aren't well informed might think you were serious.

  • D-Pizzle||

    I see that as a feature, not a bug.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Needs more references to "Handmaid's Tale"

    That one is a winner.

    Keep it up.

  • JDS1||

    Agreed OpenBorders. Wonder why we bother showing up for the comments section in Reason though, where "meddlesome Jew who should be sent back to the homeland" is regular fare from the obese white trash Trump supporters.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    He wants to control every facet of your life through taxes

    From the man himself - Raise taxes on poor to make them easier to control.

  • CE||

    New flash: authoritarian politician disregards constitutional limits on government power. Tape at 11.

  • NoVaNick||

    If Bloomturd is running as a dem, I may just have to vote in the democratic primary to stop him. Even Hillary would be preferable to him. and if he gets the nomination, I will be forced to vote for Trump

  • ||

    What an insufferable nanny.

    The epitome of a rich progressive who couldn't care less about the impact his policies have on...those people.

  • Dimitri Cavalli||

    Isn't it more accurate to say that Bloomberg "re-registered" as a Democrat? I believe he was a Democrat until 2001. He decided to run as a Republican after he realized he could never win a Democratic primary.

    That clip of him being asked how he can support gun control when he continues to travel with armed bodyguards ("I'll get back to you," he said) will make a great campaign commercial.

    In a Democratic primary, he'll probably do worse than NYC Mayor John Lindsay did when he ran for president in 1972 as a Democrat.

    I still have my "Smoke Bloomberg" cigarette lighters the Libertarian lady who ran against him in 2005 sent me in response to a modest campaign contribution I sent her.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Meddlesome Jew douche. Repatriate them all back to the homeland.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    I think this is No Sex Recently's way of saying "Build That Wailing Wall"

  • zaphod||

    Great, just what we need, another taxpayer funded wall.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Bloomberg is a Lefty piece of shit and always has been.

    He hates the constitution.

  • Rich||

  • JDS1||

    Reason has Bloomberg Derangement Syndrome! They think BLOOMBERG is "authoritarian." Yes Bloomberg is the authoritarian.

    These are the folks that nurtured the "Trump Derangement Syndrome" meme: The idea that calling out Trump's authoritarianism is outlandish, chicken-little bedwetting.

    Bloomberg wants a gun registry and a soda tax.

    Trump wants to not have to be elected but still be President. He pays people to beat up on protesters. Members of the media are killed by MAGA-fanatics and the next week he is calling the media "the enemy of the people." His administration plays footsies with ACTUAL NAZIS, saying they are great people. His DOJ division for combatting white nationalist terrorism is eliminated entirely while MAGA brownshirts kill people in Charlottesville, Parkland, Maryland.

    Trump says protesting should be illegal.

    He wants to make large scale protests functionally impossible by imposing fees.

    But yeah Bloomberg is the new Stalin and worries about Trump are Trump Derangement Syndrome.

    Is Reason funded by Russian billionaires?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Parody or actual nutjob?

    It's getting increasingly more difficult to tell.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Bloomberg wants a gun registry and a soda tax.""

    Actually, he wanted a ban on large sodas and tried to do an run around the city legislature to enact it.

  • gphx||

    In 2016 Bloomberg did his own polls. The result, even among Bloomberg readers, was no one on either side liked him.
    Pure publicity stunt.

  • coma44||

    He is a commie, what would anyone think other wise?

  • tlapp||

    Bloomberg would be a disaster for the nation and democrats. They will have a battle royale between the clueless socialist base that backs Bernie and Ocasio and the bought and paid for establishment that would love him.

  • ddavel||

    Come on, Bloomberg, just come out of the closet and admit you're a Communist to the Bone!

  • Joseph C. Moore (USN Ret.||

    How was Eric Garner selling "untaxed" cigarettes? If he purchased them legally, they were taxed so selling "loosies" was not evading the cigarette tax. However, if he was selling "loosies" from ones he stole, THEN, they would be untaxed. Eric, I assume, was providing a service to smokers who could not afford the $14 for a pack, in which case, he should have been left alone.

  • Naaman Brown||

    New York has a major problem with cigarettes smuggled from low tax states into NYC Base price per pack: NYC $13, Missouri $4. Huge incentive to drive around buying low tax cigarettes by the cartons and sell a trunkload in NYC for a profit. What better way to distribute untaxed cigarettes than as single loosies? [cynicism] A message must be sent. If babies can be burned in Waco to send a message about gun control, what is cracking down on the Garners on the streets with loosies to send a message about tobacco control? [/cynicism]

  • Rock Lobster||

    "Michael Bloomberg is no defender of the Constitution."

    Well, no--not as it's explicitly written, of course. However, add a few penumbras and emanations and some creative Orwellian redefinition of words, and I'm sure he could get behind it.

    I hope he does run for the Democrat nomination. The squeals of indignation from the identity politics mongers would be epic.

  • Naaman Brown||

    2015-2016. Bloomberg donated millions to the campaigns of the Virginia Democrats for senate, attorney general and governor..The newly elected AG Herring then revoked Virginia recognition of handgun permits with dozens of states.

    Before it went into effect, Gov McAuliffe rescinded the AG plan and Virginia went to the Tennessee permit model: recognize all valid state handgun permits same as out-of-state drivers license or marriage certificates.

    Bloomberg was furious. He had paid millions in campaign contributions, bought the Democrat candidates in Virginia, How dare they! Everytown ran ads against the permit reciprocity decision and compared McAuliffe to Wayne PaPierre.

    Alanna Durkin Richer, "Former McAuliffe ally [Bloomberg] turns against him on gun compromise", Associated Press, 9 Feb 2016.

    If Bloomberg had had his way, VA would have been like NY: no recognition of out-of-state permits. TN/VA permit laws had been crafted years before to avoid the conflict between TN "going armed" and VA "open carry" statutes. My TN handgun carry permit not recognized in VA because Bloomberg PAC money helped elect the state AG. Bloomberg is everything that George Soros and the Koch Brothers are alleged to be: a power mad petty dictator who believes his billions entitle him to act as the Mustapha Mond of the Brave New World Order.

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