On Monday, the Michael Bloomberg campaign released a series of tweets meant to engender outrage from the public. The tweets each featured photographs of vandalized Bloomberg campaign offices. They featured phrases like, “corporate pig,” “oligarch” and “eat the rich,” in bright, sweeping colors, occasionally accompanied by broken windows. The message from the Bloomberg camp was simple: We’re a unity campaign, and aren’t these people trying to tear this country apart?
The photos featured graffiti from several cities across the United States. However, there seems to be a pattern. These were frequently small cities, cities deeply harmed by the 2008 financial crisis. All but one were from the Rust Belt — the states which will become battlegrounds in the general election. One photograph showed a small sign taped to the door outside the Bloomberg campaign office in Flint, MI, emblazoned with “EAT THE RICH.” The Bloomberg campaign wrote below it — along with the other posts — a single, three-word sentence: “America deserves better.”
I cannot imagine anything more dehumanizing than a billionaire presidential candidate chastising citizens of a city like Flint, which has been victim to decades of administrative neglect and has consistently been one of the most heavily-policed and impoverished cities in the country. This goes beyond punching down. It illustrates a fundamental break in morality, a condescension bordering on the obscene.
Still, on the same day these photographs were posted, I read in the New Haven Independent that former New Haven mayor Toni Harp had announced her endorsement for none other than Michael Bloomberg. The similarities between New Haven and Flint, in some ways, are striking. The two cities are of similar size. Both struggle with budget crises, racial inequality and insufficient infrastructure. Both have been supported economically by corporations unwilling to invest in citizens long-term. If Bloomberg is willing to condescend so blatantly to the citizens of Flint, I can’t help but wonder: does he think “America deserves better” than the real, uncensored beliefs of the people of New Haven, too?
In her endorsement, Harp cites Bloomberg’s plan for criminal justice. This is despite the fact that Bloomberg has repeatedly endorsed stop-and-frisk, implied that Black and Latino populations are more violent than white populations, and supervised a surveillance operation at the NYPD targeted at neighborhoods with high populations of people of color. He’s admitted to all of this on the record, even going so far as to say that “we disproportionately stop whites too much, and minorities too little.” Harp dismisses these claims, saying that Bloomberg apologized. (He did, but not until after he decided to run for president.) The apology, too, falls on deaf ears when the Bloomberg campaign has surged due to phone-banking efforts by incarcerated people earning a maximum of $20 a month.
Harp’s endorsement also comes despite the fact that other candidates have released far more comprehensive plans on racial equality, including the massive overhauls in the Sanders and Warren platforms outlawing for-profit prisons, banning facial recognition software and ending mandatory minimum sentences.
Harp’s endorsement is concerning. The fact that Toni Harp, both a former Mayor and State Senator in New Haven, is comfortable endorsing someone with such blatantly racist policy proposals is outstanding. But her lenience about these policies also illustrates the degree to which communities like New Haven stand to suffer under a Bloomberg administration, without the economic relief, criminal justice reform and educational funding we desperately need in order to make New Haven a city not just on the up-and-up, but genuinely thriving. Yes, Bloomberg is trying to buy this election. But should he be able to buy the city we all live in, that even for a short time we all call home?
Still, this seems on par for Harp. Indeed, she endorsed Senator Kamala Harris — who also has a record of discrimination against Black citizens as California Attorney General — before Harris dropped out of the presidential race. Harp garnered the support of UNITE HERE during her campaign for Mayor, allowing her the support of the Working Families Party — which on a national level, has endorsed Elizabeth Warren, a candidate notorious for her skepticism of money and corruption in politics. Thus, her endorsement of Bloomberg feels near-scandalous. The fact that Harp, who ultimately ran as a nominee for the Working Families Party in her final mayoral bid in November, would reject working Americans so soundly as to endorse a billionaire attempting to buy the Democratic nomination is a travesty.
Of course, we can hold out hope that Mayor Justin Elicker will endorse a more progressive candidate. But the disappointment of Harp’s endorsement is a real one, which should not be taken lightly. To everyone voting in the Connecticut primary, watching a debate, campaigning on campus or even strolling past City Hall: I urge you to consider what Bloomberg means for a city like New Haven, for the city that has become our home.
Bloomberg’s campaign wants you to think America deserves better. The thing is, Mike — we do.
MCKINSEY CROZIER is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. Her column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .