Michael Bloomberg’s announcement of his primaries candidacy for the Democratic Party hasn’t electrified any particular voting bloc, possibly excepting the six Americans on Forbes’ list of Richest People In The World even more loaded than he is. The former New York City mayor has changed his affiliation so often he is not seen as a flag-bearer for any solid cause. That’s not always a negative thing, though. His competitors resent his bleak judgement of their electability, envy his wealth and fear he may cut through on the lectern-crowded challengers’ stage as the only non-extremist. He is being written off by many as a hypocritical plutocrat who won’t connect to the base, won’t coax middle-class voters away from President Trump and certainly won’t incite apostasy in the socialist congregations of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
I wouldn’t bet too much against him at this stage. Laughing off a New York outsider doesn’t seem wise. His advantages are twofold and formidable: financially, he makes the Kennedys look like the Cunninghams. Second: he will be attacked by his peculiar ensemble of, er, colleagues for several months. That’s the kind of advertising not even his money can buy.
The other thing about Bloomberg that’s raising eyebrows is his age – 77 . Not because it’s unusual but rather because it isn’t. America has suddenly become a gerontocracy. It may be the land of the free but its politics, post-Obama, has become the home of the aged. Let’s look at the most prominent slow movers and careful shakers: Nancy Pelosi is 79, Bernie Sanders 78, Joe Biden 77, Donald Trump 73, Hillary Clinton 72 and Elizabeth Warren 70.
Vice-President Mike Pence’s boyish 60 years is now roughly the age of those waiting their turn in the ante-rooms of American power. Lyndon Johnson was 60 when he retired. Harry Truman was just a year older than that when he bombed Hiroshima. Had he not been assassinated, John F. Kennedy would have left office after two terms at 51. While this phenomenon is more about the increasing efficacy of modern medicine than it is about blocking forty and fifty-somethings, it is changing the image of the nation. At a time when the end of America’s paramountcy in the world is being described – rightly or wrongly – as inevitable, its current leaders are way past their primes. Still, Bloomberg is fitter looking than Biden and Sanders. If it comes down to the Mandelbaums, that might work to his advantage as well.