Michael Bloomberg has, to a limited extent, re-emerged as a presidential candidate in the upcoming 2020 election. He had, on March 5th, ended speculation on the subject by removing himself from the list of possible office seekers, saying that he felt he could do more to help the country in other ways. He also seemed to understand how bruising the Democratic primary would be. I suppose with Joe Biden moving through a slow motion immolation on the nightly news Mr. Bloomberg may feel that the door is a little more open for him than he’d previously imagined. Despite his irritating tendency to act like everyone’s micro-managing nanny, he does radiate an unquestionable competency as well as the ability to project an interest in some progressive issues (the environment, gun control) without morphing into the sort of “Che” t-shirt wearing, pick pocket wanna-be that the Democrat party is churning out with an alarming consistency. That being said, I would hope he let’s go of this fantasy without too much further delay. I say this, not as criticism of his potential as a leader, but as an acknowledgement of the pernicious nature of identity politics, and the very real obstacles that I see as insurmountable to any Jewish hopeful for national office. As a result of the above mentioned obsession with ethnicity, religion, gender and countless other pointless distinctions that people have a tendency to fixate on, this DNA level commitment to tribalism manifests in a variety of ways, and, in relation to someone carrying around a Jewish surname, many of them are not quite what you’d expect at first thought.
Beginning with the mundane, a minor, but not inconsequential portion of the U.S. population self identifies as holding anti-Semitic views. The exact percentage varies with both the source used and the time frame accounted for but I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that anyone believing that Jews are “overly influential in politics”, “manipulative”, “clannish”, and or possessed of “divided loyalties”, is also unlikely to support a Jewish candidate. If you can’t stand an entire group of people, and are comfortable feeling that way, then viewing every thing involving that group through the prism of conspiracy is a foreseeable default position. Still, working from an anecdotal perspective, I don’t think the folks who fit into the above mentioned framework are the real reason why I have a significantly greater chance of staying awake through an exhaustively thorough rendition of Wagner’s ring cycle than I do of ever seeing somebody named Cohen getting personal mail delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I think the real issue is not one of overt hatred, but rather a toxic combination of an acceptance of disproportionate success on the part of a disliked minority and frustration at the seemingly inexplicable nature of that very success. If you don’t hate a group based on a biased stance (or can’t bring yourself to admit it), but are nonetheless resentful of their position, then some form of passive aggression is not unlikely to take hold in the way you see and relate to said group. Compared to the half empty basements of losers pining away for the days of George Lincoln Rockwell, the numbers of people who feel that Jews have done “well enough” must be legion.
With just under seven million to their number in the United States, American Jews make up a small percentage (roughly 2%) of U.S. population but are still close to half of global Jewry (14.5 million). That demographic, when combined with the dramatic over- representation of Jewish people in the ranks of various professions (medicine, finance, tech., etc.) leaves ample room for ill defined suspicion, if not full blown paranoia. It’s not that I think that the picture I’ve just painted validates any assertive antipathy on the part of anyone who feels that way. Often as not, someone prone to out and out hatred might not bother to structure their rationale at even so rudimentary a level. It strikes me that the real impact of the opening lines of this paragraph is to more subtly, but persistently, cut off the opportunity for condescension, and, relative to the subject of this piece, the self congratulatory extension of political support for someone of a minority population. This is not to say that patting oneself on the back is the only impetus behind voting for a candidate of some different persuasion. I’m sure that many people who cast their votes while believing that they’re doing something of historical importance genuinely feel that they are taking part in the righting of an age old wrong. What I am getting at, is the lower probability of that thought process occurring in somebody that doesn’t see the person in question as the avatar of a downtrodden race, religion, gender or any other tightly defined group. Noblesse oblige is a much easier path for those that truly believe they hold the higher position in a given social comparison.
I began this exercise in reference to the candidacy of Michael Bloomberg. Lest anyone think I’m making some arcane, reverse psychological attempt to actually bolster his career in politics please know that is not the case. While appreciating his aforementioned better qualities, I can’t imagine a circumstance under which I’d vote for him myself. At fifty-five I’m too old to try and survive a second overbearing mommy. I brought him up to illustrate a point; at a nation-wide level there is no natural constituency for a Jewish candidate. Having gone on at length about the antipathy of the wider gentile populace I’d be self-servingly remiss if I didn’t take a moment to slap the members of my ethnic cohort around for a moment. If some in the gentile world see the general success of Jews as something that exempts us from their self-aggrandizing good will, an even greater percentage of Jews view their membership in a highly achieved ethno/religious group as a source of discomfort, if not embarrassment. Not wanting to take a five thousand word detour I imagine that there are a number of reasons for this mentation, ranging from the guilt one might feel from undeserved good fortune to fear of presenting too high a profile, and the danger that could arise from that sort of notoriety. That remains a subject for another day. In closing I’d like to beg the indulgence everybody that’s been kind enough to hang on to this point. Try to remember the tone of quite a bit of the pre and post election day conversation in 2008. If your experience was anything like mine, it would be impossible to recall a conversation with a supporter of President Obama that did not in some way include some declaration on the part of the supporter of having done something “important”. Perhaps even more telling were the not particularly well masked mentions of racism that were a not infrequent response to any questions as to the qualifications for office of a one term senator with a predominantly academic background. All that in mind, ask yourself what might Mr. Bloomberg be thinking when assessing his own electoral possibilities. Limited support from his own small “home team”. No shortage of registered voters who either hate him without reservation or simply can’t see him as someone that might indirectly serve their ego by virtue of being deserving of their ennobling good will. I can’t imagine anyone pulling the lever for him and telling themselves (or anyone else for that matter) they were doing something “important”. Perhaps neither could he.