The following commentary was submitted in December 2018 for our fourth print edition by leaders of the Central Iowa chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, who recently staged a protest against the prospective presidential candidate.
It is late 2018 in Iowa. And that means two things:
1. The midterm cycle has ended.
2. The presidential election cycle has begun.
Despite being demographically unrepresentative of most of the country, Iowa steadfastly clings to its role of hosting the insufferable pageantry of the first presidential caucus. There’s over a year before the senseless ritual, and this early span becomes an incubation period for a coterie of technocrats, billionaires, and other detestable grifters. Central Iowa DSA has already had the pleasure of introducing ourselves to the most loathsome of these frauds: Michael Bloomberg, the lordly former mayor of New York City.
In our later modernity, liberal capital isn’t fond of presenting itself as outwardly aggressive. What if your manager, your boss, your oppressor was, in actuality, the good guy? This is Bloomberg’s strategy of political messaging. There is a bad billionaire in the White House. We need a good billionaire to save us. It’s a delusive self-exhibition, one that only the most hardline of establishment Democrats would be impressed by. And that’s probably why Bloomberg decided to unveil Paris to Pittsburgh, his disingenuous slog of an environmentalist documentary, in the impetuously ardent heart of Des Moinesian liberalism, the East Village’s Curate event space.
Bloomberg is leveraging this contrast to Trump with his questionably “green” record as a politician. The narrative of Paris to Pittsburgh is simple: The federal government isn’t doing anything to prevent forthcoming environmental collapse, so state and local governments are picking up the slack. The film is a superficially uplifting chain of corporate-green testimonies on small scale initiatives, all of which the scientific consensus would agree are woefully insufficient. It’s crucial to remember, however, that Paris to Pittsburgh is clearly not intended to be a well-founded selection of case studies. Principally, it’s Bloomberg’s latest endeavor of political clout chasing and image developing. The political realities of his mass investments and economic allegiances expose just how deeply deceitful his documentary’s roll-out has been.
Bloomberg is an unabashed public proponent of fracking and oil pipelining, and while his firms are typically quite secretive with their financial machinations, it is known that his business partners have millions invested into fossil fuel operations. It would be dubious to claim that one can amass that much money without being even tangentially involved with big oil. Bloomberg’s recent brand of green politics is a thin veneer, and it was utilized to test the naivety and servility of Des Moines liberals. How receptive would the flyover people be to his presence? Could he garner preemptive support?
The billionaire’s Iowa debut had to be repudiated in some form. Central Iowa DSA, and Student Action chapters from Ames and Grinnell came together to engage in democracy and ask him some basic questions about his business enterprises and ideological platform, standard candidate accountability. We came to discover that Bloomberg’s personnel perceived these firm inquiries as a threat.
The night commenced with a distinctly yuppie opening reception. White wine and tuna tartar was passed around as the city’s dappered up managerial class schmoozed in the Curate lobby. As expected, the Polk County Dem cabal was in attendance, most noticeably fellow rich guy/demoralizing candidate Fred Hubbell. The event was not officially cosponsored by the Polk County Dems, but based on the crowd, one probably would have assumed otherwise.
The atmosphere was ecstatic. People were genuinely thrilled by the prospect of hearing platitudes from a man who might have not been able to point out Des Moines on a map a few days prior. Many of the attendees were likely unaware of Bloomberg’s veiled hypocrisy, and knowing this, the DSA action group saw opportunity for education. To the chagrin of Bloomberg’s organizers, we unobtrusively passed out some concise reading material.
As the initial hors d’oeuvres dwindled, people eventually began to funnel into the screening room. Des Moines’ own Mayor Frank Cownie offered the first introduction, a brief lauding of Bloomberg as someone who inspired him. Considering Bloomberg’s unambiguously unpopular legacy of stop-and-frisk policing and rampant gentrification, this was a questionable admission from Cownie.
The next up was an executive from the cornily named RadicalMedia, the film studio responsible for Paris to Pittsburgh. More Bloomberg adulations coming from a place of either deep gullibility or shameless brandishment. You have to wonder if these types of artists ever feel regret for misleading the public and allying with an overclass furthering a future of ecological cataclysm. They seem satisfied.
The final speaker was Michael Bloomberg himself. With the confidence of a man who lives in absolute comfort every minute of every day, he sauntered up the stand, a perfect moment to inquire about his dishonest beliefs on renewable energy. Iowa State and Grinnell College students took action, and of course, were immediately both disregarded by Bloomberg and accosted by event staff and police officers.
Disciplinary force came down on the activists within seconds of them voicing their objections, an awfully skittish response from a man who once presided over 8 million people. You would think he would be more familiar with and open to democratic dialogue. He wasn’t. The students were forcibly ejected from the premises. In solidarity and protest, the remainder of the DSA presence marched out of the screening declaring, “Another world is possible.”
Bloomberg is an audacious capitalist and vile crook. His wealth is based upon financial speculation and all the international exploitation inextricably intertwined with it. Central Iowa DSA and Iowa Student Action came together to adamantly reject this man and the violent ruling class he primarily represents. In this year before the Iowa caucuses, it is vital that socialists do all they can to expose these autocrats.