Bankole: Looking to win the black vote, Bloomberg? Start in Detroit

Bankole Thompson

In his campaign for president, Michael Bloomberg is aggressively pursuing the support of black voters who form the core of the Democratic Party. Despite the stench of some of his overbearing policies, like stop-and-frisk on blacks when he was mayor of New York City, the billionaire philanthropist and media mogul seems to be going to every corner of the black community to get noticed.

His enormous campaign war chest has turned out to be somewhat of a once-in-a-lifetime financial bonanza for black political operatives in Detroit and across the country who typically complain about the lack of consulting opportunities from the Democratic Party.

For years, some black political consultants have lamented how infrequently they are recruited for important roles during campaign season, and how often they are passed over for their white counterparts. 

Despite the fact that blacks remain the soul of the Democratic Party, liberal political consulting is an industry heavily dominated by white men who jet into black cities during elections to dictate how canvassing should be done. 

Bloomberg with his billions seems to be rewarding those sidelined political consultants in exchange for their push to get him the backing he will need from black voters to win the nomination. 

But at what cost are these consultants willing to work for Bloomberg? Some of Bloomberg’s policies during the time he led New York were morally abhorrent. It is one thing to take someone else’s check, but it is another thing to try to defend or explain past actions or endorsements that run counter to the collective advancement of the black community. 

Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Even the black press has been enlisted by Bloomberg’s behemoth information warfare campaign. The National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade group that represents roughly 230 black newspapers, recently announced a major advertising deal it landed with Bloomberg’s presidential campaign. The group called a $3.5 million ad buy from the campaign historic as Bloomberg continues his ground game for Super Tuesday.

In reality, that is a paltry sum when you consider the fact that it has to be spent among that many newspapers. But for the group it’s a big deal because the white liberal political machine hardly makes strategic investments in organizations that are deemed connected to the black community.

“The Bloomberg campaign’s initiative is groundbreaking, and it goes to significantly increasing the economic health of African Americans by tripling their net worth," campaign surrogate Steve Benjamin told the group. "The Bloomberg model is intentionally focused on creating a million new African American homeowners, 100,000 new African American-owned businesses, and $70 billion in federal capital to go in the 100 most challenged neighborhoods across the country,”

Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, is among a group of black mayors around the nation who have thrown their support behind Bloomberg. 

It remains to be seen if Bloomberg’s election spending spree will pay off on Super Tuesday. But the sticking issue for many black voters remains stop-and-frisk. 

Last week’s debate in Nevada raised more questions about Bloomberg’s viability as a candidate. He didn’t even discuss the “Greenwood Initiative: Economic Justice for Black America,” which he unveiled in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of the black wall street massacre in 1921. That leaves the question: Was the plan he rolled out for black America another example of check box politics? 

Bloomberg needs to show a demonstrable commitment to black people by investing in Detroit, the largest black city in the nation. He can begin by paying off the water bills of thousands of black families in the city facing shutoffs.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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