Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has made a career out of switching political affiliations when he deems it personally advantageous, gave students at the University of Michigan some insight into his ideology in his commencement speech this weekend. In doing so, he slammed everything from safe spaces to timid politicians to political demagogues.
After telling the graduates that colleges should challenge students with “uncomfortable ideas,” Bloomberg criticized the rise of the intolerant left.
“The fact that some university boards and administrations now bow to pressure and shield students from these ideas through ‘safe spaces,’ ‘code words’ and ‘trigger warnings’ is, in my view, a terrible mistake,” he said, earning a mixture of cheers and boos from the audience. “The whole purpose of college is to learn how to deal with difficult situations — not run away from them. A microaggression is exactly that: micro. And one of the most dangerous places on a college campus is a safe space, because it creates the false impression that we can insulate ourselves from those who hold different views.”
But if conservatives in the crowd were getting interested, Bloomberg quickly made it clear that he wasn’t just talking to campus liberals.
“Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas, and each demonizes the other unfairly and dishonestly,” he said. “In this year’s presidential election, we’ve seen more demagoguery from both parties than I can remember in my lifetime. Our country is facing serious and difficult challenges. But rather than offering realistic solutions, candidates in both parties are blaming our problems on easy targets who breed resentment. For Republicans, it’s Mexicans here illegally and Muslims. And for Democrats, it’s the wealthy and Wall Street. The truth is: We cannot solve the problems we face by blaming anyone.”
Ugh. Bloomberg started strong, but at this point, he sounded like every Republican candidate who tried to stand out this year on the debate stage by using the old, “The American people don’t want to see this childishness” line. Does that ever work? Our political system is set up to be confrontational. Yes, sometimes it moves from a confrontation over ideas to a confrontation over, say, the size of a candidate’s hands, but that’s human nature for you.
But some – like Bloomberg, apparently – believe that the answer to America’s woes lies in finding politicians who are malleable and soft in their positions. An independent, open-minded sort of guy.
Bloomberg isn’t wrong to warn of demagoguery, but let’s hold on for a second. Donald Trump is not telling anyone that by deporting illegal immigrants and banning Muslim immigration, we will solve everything wrong with America. No, these measures are meant to solve the problems they specifically address. On the other hand, Bernie Sanders is legitimately working on the premise that Wall Street and the 1% is the root cause of the country’s misery. That’s demagoguery. In fact, that’s insanity.
In Bloomberg’s world, you just throw both sides into the same bucket and shrug. But for anyone who is really paying attention, there is no equivalency here. Sanders wants to restore America by turning it into something else entirely; Trump wants to restore America by cleaning up years of idiocy and neglect. Someone truly open-minded would be able to see that.