– January 27, 2020
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Who is favored to win the Democratic nomination? The presidency? 

Here’s my ridiculously unsubstantiated prediction: Michael Bloomberg. Crazier things have happened. The previous front runner, not exactly an inspiration to the multitudes, has slipped a notch on fears that he can’t win. Meanwhile, a self-described socialist can’t win either. 

Bloomberg is now showing up as number 3 in the nomination betting polls, after Biden and Bernie, and number 4 in the general election. The odds don’t favor Bloomberg but they didn’t favor Donald Trump either.

There’s plenty of reason to believe that betting odds are more reliable than regular polls. The opinions that count have real money behind them. That means that the participants have the incentive to cull all available information and make the best-possible guess. 

It’s true that betting missed the rise of Trump but not as much as survey polling. If we’ve learned anything in the last four years it’s that anything can happen in these last days of the failure of the social-democratic project in which only one person in ten trusts government. 

Four years ago, Neither the polls nor the betting odds had a clue about what would happen Election Night. For that matter, hardly anyone believed that Donald Trump could even win the nomination, until his opponents began to drop like flies. 

If Bloomberg takes the nomination, there would be something absolutely delicious about it. It would mean, for example, that all the hoopla about television time dedicated to these Democratic debates would have proven to be completely pointless. Bloomberg never qualified for them and so didn’t participate in them. He is thereby unscathed by the absurdities that have come with them, including the mainstreaming of preposterous ideas of abolishing banning private health insurance, confiscating guns, and banning fracking. 

The whole nomination process has been a comedy of errors, and all rooted in a single fallacy that government should be cleaned up of the influence of money and personal ambition, and elections along with them. In this view, politics and the state it creates must be pure – meaning untainted by capitalistic money – to do great public good! 

Therefore, the Democratic National Convention imposed a series of rules that ended up driving out moderate and reasonable candidates from the race. To qualify, you needed to maximize small donations and register in the polls on a nationwide basis. That imposed two results: competent statesmen with only local or regional followings were wiped out and the remaining survivors were forced to perform preposterous ideological antics (suitable for viral 5-second videos) in order to maximize small donations. 

Hilariously, this push for small donations to prove grass-roots support has made them all deeply dependent on large-scale donors to fund social-media campaigns to get small donations. The winners here are Facebook and Google who have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising fees. 

It has also resulted in a windfall for credit-card processors and small banks. Holding the record for the most fees earned from a campaign is the Bernie Sanders campaign. Banks have pulled in $2.3 million, while Warren has generated $1.75 million in processing fee and Buttigieg $1.73 million. Not exactly what these clean-up-politics intended, but it is wholly defensible. After all, these candidates dedicated to curbing capitalist forces in politics are utterly dependent on capitalistic financial innovation to make their candidacies viable. 

Meanwhile, Bloomberg is self-financing his campaign. He is even refusing contributions. One might think that would make him the cleanest candidate in the race but no: the others are denouncing him for attempting to buy the presidency with his ill-gotten gains.

But if you look at the numbers the others are spending, you realize that there is no such thing as politics uninfluenced by money. The attempt to create such a thing ends up generating unexpected consequences. Candidates ended up gaming the system, spending big bucks to create the illusion of grass-roots support that ends up only benefiting technology companies, list-rental agencies, banks, and consultants who have mastered the ability to snag and pound email addresses and cell-phone numbers. 

Most devastatingly for Democrats, the whole strategy has ended up generating a slate of candidates that have proven themselves good at prying small bucks from fanatical activists who come nowhere near representing the views of the people who actually vote on Election Day.  If you end up with someone who is unelectable – cannot beat Donald Trump – what exactly do you have? In the end, to lose the election is to lose everything.

But consider where this whole fiasco began: with the ideological conviction that the goal is an overweening state that is purified of self-interest, payoffs, bribes, private agendas, profit, and unintended outcomes. It’s the presumption behind much of social-democratic ideology. The trouble is that there is not a shred of evidence that it is possible. 

Good government is a unicorn. Big government is always and necessarily corrupt, as Machiavelli proved long ago. If you truly want to minimize corruption in society, the path must begin by reducing and minimizing or even eliminating the state’s role in society. That is the one thought that the Democrats will not allow themselves to have. The result is a forever effort to pound a square peg in a round hole, with massive breakage along the way. 

More than anything else over the last four years, Democrats have had one great goal of unseating Donald Trump. Their tactics have almost universally backfired, especially this impeachment which once again sets Trump up to act like the conquering hero who is forever under unfair attack from the people’s enemies. It plays to his narrative perfectly. The’s Democratic strategy – born in earnest – to discern the candidate who is most grass rootsy, most authentic, most free of capitalistic influence, has ended up much the same way, creating a situation that ends up producing the opposite of the long-run goal. 

Let’s return to Bloomberg. I wouldn’t dare forecast his victory but I wouldn’t rule it out either. The battle of the billionaires come Fall 2020 could be a riveting thing to watch. It would also underscore the point. After many decades of trying to get payola out of politics, there is still no stopping the reality that a big state creates big stakes for which people are willing to pay. 

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages, most recently The Market Loves You. He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture. He is available for speaking and interviews via his emailTw | FB | LinkedIn
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