Does God need a nanny? Do any of us?
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered one of the truly rare defining moments in politics this week – one that doesn’t just define himself, but also his brand of politics, and perhaps the hypocritical outrage over checkbook politics as well. Bloomberg has earned a reputation as a nanny-state progressive with his attacks on soda consumption, outdoor smoking, and trans-fats in Big Apple restaurants.
Bloomberg has also spent years going after the National Rifle Association, launching Mayors Against Illegal Guns in 2006 to push gun-control legislation, an effort that has failed to build support for legislation. Dozens of mayors dropped out of MAIG over the last year when it became apparent that Bloomberg wanted to go after legal guns as well, pushing for so-called assault weapons bans and other new legislation rather than push for better enforcement of existing law.
“The reason why I joined the group in the first place is because I took the name for what it said — against ‘illegal’ guns,” Rockford, Illinois mayor Lawrence Morrissey (no relation) told a town meeting in June 2013. He later told Buzzfeed that the focus shifted from its original purpose. “The original focus, I thought, was going to be on better enforcement of our existing laws.”
That failure has Bloomberg frustrated enough to spend even more of his money, but perhaps not quite wise enough to know when to quit talking. In a New York Times profile of Bloomberg’s new effort to spend $50 million to promote “grass-roots network” to oppose the NRA, the former mayor revealed a little something of his own arrogance.
He told Jeremy Peters that his awareness of mortality doesn’t have him worried. “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed,” Bloomberg declared. “I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”
I’m sure the Almighty is grateful for Bloomberg’s input on this matter, but we can leave the theological implications of this to the theologians. If there is a better example of hubris outside of Greek tragedies, though, we’d need to search far and wide for it. It’s the same hubris that fuels the nanny-state mentality, and makes a mockery of itself.
Take, for example, this new project. The common understanding of grassroots efforts is that they work from the bottom up. That phenomenon is what created the term “grassroots” in the first place. Having a billionaire spend $50 million to start a group is the antithesis of a grassroots movement, and usually ends up derided as “AstroTurf” – fake grass. Instead of the common people speaking truth to elites in power, Bloomberg’s latest project reverses the dynamic into the common nanny-state model of elites telling the hoi polloi what to think and how to live.
The context of Bloomberg’s remark says volumes about the goals of nanny-state politicians, too. The reason why Bloomberg feels he can skip the eternal intake interview has little to do with his faith or in eternal life, and everything to do with his attempt to force a Utopia on Earth. Peters noted that Bloomberg framed his comments in terms of “his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation,” all of which took the form of dictates on access and limitation of choice.
Besides, this kind of top-down elitist approach seems oddly out of step with the hysteria among Bloomberg’s nanny-state allies on the Left. For the last several weeks, the White House and Democrats have worked themselves into hysterical froth over the political activities of Charles and David Koch, two billionaires who oppose the nanny-state agenda. Through their network of political-action committees and organizations, the Koch brothers have opposed Obamacare and advocated for laissez-faire regulatory policies.
For those efforts, the Kochs have endured a shocking amount of character assassination, not from other activists but from elected officials. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called them “un-American” for their participation in the political process in more than one speech from the Senate floor.
Another member of Senate leadership, Bloomberg ally Chuck Schumer (D-NY), reaffirmed that slur on MSNBC’s Morning Joe for the Koch opposition to Obamacare. Reid has repeatedly insisted that the Koch brothers are “trying to buy America” by using their own wealth to engage against top-down, nanny-state agendas that Reid supports.
Oddly enough, this sounds a lot like a warning Bloomberg also issued to people who oppose his anti-gun agenda, especially Democrats. Arguing that the NRA plays hardball in electoral politics, Bloomberg pledged to oppose even those Democratic politicians who otherwise align with his own politics. “We’ve got to make them afraid of us.” That sounds like a strange strategy for someone selling Utopia.
Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post thinks so as well. “It seems quite clear from those quotes,” Cillizza wrote, “that Bloomberg doesn't fully grasp how he is viewed by many people outside of major cities and the Northeast.”
Making himself the front man for this effort, given his track record of hubris, all but guarantees Bloomberg’s failure. “People don't like others telling them how to handle their business,” Cillizza concludes, “especially if that person is a billionaire New York City resident who wants to regulate things like sugar in soda.”
Indeed. It also exposes the deep hypocrisy of the nanny-state Left, which loves the wealthy elite like Bloomberg when they want to dictate how everyone else should live while demonizing the wealthy who want people to have the freedom to make those choices themselves. That hubris is hardly limited to Michael Bloomberg, even if he presents the clearest picture of it.
Top reads from The Fiscal Times: