Finley: Put Bloomberg on debate stage

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Michael Bloomberg should be on the Democratic debate stage Wednesday night in Las Vegas.

The multi-billionaire is suddenly at the center of the presidential nominating campaign, largely because of an unprecedented spending spree that's flooded upcoming primary states, including Michigan, with Bloomberg ads and pushed him up in the polls despite a late entry into the race.

Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.

He's reached 14.2% in the national polls, behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, but ahead of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Still, he hasn't yet been allowed to participate in a Democratic debate because, until recently, the party required a candidate had to show broad fundraising support. Media mogul Bloomberg is self-funding his campaign.

The requirement was scrapped for this debate ahead of Saturday's Nevada caucuses. There's now no reason and no excuse for Bloomberg not to be on the stage.

More:Finley: Bloomberg places big bet on Michigan

The former three-term New York mayor should speak directly to voters, and not only through carefully crafted campaign ads. Voters should be able to measure him against the other Democratic contenders, all of whom have been debating each other for months.

His opponents, also, should have the opportunity to challenge Bloomberg on his record and positions.

Bloomberg has benefited from being able to use his massive spending to craft his own narrative, without having to subject it to the scrutiny of a debate.

As a result, voters are making a lot of assumptions about Bloomberg that may not be accurate.

Many disillusioned Republicans, for example, consider Bloomberg an acceptable alternative to President Donald Trump because he's also a successful businessman and they perceive him as a moderate who will continue a pro-business agenda. 

But is that the reality? Not so clear.

Over the weekend, Bloomberg released portions of his economic plan dealing with the relationship between employers and employees.

Like most of his rivals for the nomination, Bloomberg came out for a national $15 minimum wage, pretending not to recognize that $15 spends differently in New York City than it does in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Farm and domestic workers, including undocumented immigrants, would qualify for the higher wage levels. This is an extraordinarily inflationary proposal that would slow hiring and destabilize many small businesses, and Bloomberg as an employer should know better. 

He also called for mandatory 12 weeks of employer-paid family leave.

Bloomberg also ranks as the most anti-gun rights candidate on the ballot. He purchased the Virginia Legislature last fall, and it's now trying to move through some of the nation's strictest anti-gun measures.

He also funded a campaign that led to the closure of 40% of the nation's coal plants and promises to rapidly end the use of all fossil fuels.

Is Bloomberg closer to Sanders and Warren or to Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar? Hard to tell until we get to see them side by side, answering a moderator's questions.

He claims he is the candidate best suited to beat Trump. The place to prove that is on the debate stage.

Catch Nolan Finley on “One Detroit” at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on Detroit Public Television.