As I am posting this on Forbes, word is out that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will endorse Hillary Clinton for President very soon. Under normal circumstances, this would be very significant for the former Secretary of State. Clinton is about to be nominated but is in a very tight race with Donald Trump, something that should not be happening. She should be trouncing him. Her problem is that she is not producing any real excitement among younger voters nor those on the fence, and she is also not doing well among self-described independents – about one third of whom are undecided. The country’s most famous of all independents – Mike Bloomberg – is supposed to provide a huge boost to her appeal among this group.
But this endorsement will not mean much of anything for a bunch of reasons. First of all, it was all too predictable. Bloomberg has been a Democrat most of his life, became a late-in-life “New York City Republican” in order to run on the Rudy Giuliani mantle in 2001, and is very liberal on most issues. Second, Bloomberg was a good government policy guy and to think that he would endorse Trump was never even a fantasy.
Third, Bloomberg the billionaire is a treasure of the New York elite, something the Clintons redefined their lives and moved their bodies to become. In this milieu, Donald Trump is the outsider, the anti-elitist, the non-business-as-usual kind of guy. If Bloomberg had chosen to endorse Trump that would have been the man bites dog story. Instead, ho hum.
But there is more at work here. This election year, a very strange one indeed, an endorsement from anyone in the political establishment can actually mean a kiss of death. Millions of middle class voters are angry and that means they are not in love with much anything that represents business as usual. There are, of course, some exceptions. President Barack Obama is still very popular among the Democratic base and his campaigning for Clinton can generate some enthusiasm where that has been lacking. So can Elizabeth Warren. But not even a Bernie Sanders endorsement seems to be what many voters on the fence are looking for – particularly Millennials and thus far less than engaged independents – some authenticity. Trump is not their choice but Bloomberg is not going to bring them to Clinton.
Nor are members of the Bush 41 and 43 White House teams or any of the other high profile endorsers of Clinton. Just look at how all the King’s horses and men could not prevent the United Kingdom from Brexit. The support from leaders of both of the UK’s political parties only drove more alienated voters into the Leave column. I am presently advising an independent who is running for office and several high profile figures have been considering endorsing my candidate over an extremist who won the district primary. But my guy is already running and doing well as an outsider. That is the essence of, and will continue to be, his brand. Any support from an insider – including the incumbent – can be seen as a strike against that independence and battle against the elite.
In a nutshell, a Bloomberg endorsement for Hillary Clinton is not going to net her any support or additional credibility among unaffiliated voters. It is only going to make her look more as she already does – as a member of an elite of politicians who is “responsible for the way I am today.” This is among the reasons why Donald Trump is so formidable and should not be dismissed. As many pundits scoffed that Trump could not find GOP party leaders willing to speak for him at last week’s convention and that he had to rely on his family for validation, that may ultimately prove to be his ace in the hole this year. Railing against the machine can prove to be much more useful, in the final analysis, than getting that machine’s endorsement.