Mike Bloomberg seems like the last Democratic presidential candidate who would gain an endorsement from Bobby L. Rush, the long-time south side Chicago congressman, civil rights leader and former Black Panther. Bloomberg, aside from making his billions on Wall Street, served three terms as mayor of New York City where he supported the aggressive policing tactic “stop-and-frisk” that civil rights leaders vilified as unfairly profiling and targeting African Americans.
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But in an interview with FOX Business, Rush says he has no second thoughts about his surprise endorsement of Bloomberg earlier this month. The choice initially looked like a gamble, but now is beginning to look like a solid bet as Bloomberg rises in national polls against Democratic front-runners like independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to the extent that some political insiders see a possible path to victory.
We can’t be energized by the sentimentality of having an African American president
“Bloomberg now has momentum, sustainability, and can actually get it done,” Rush said in an interview. “Trump says he plans to spend $1 billion, but Bloomberg has already pledged to spend $2 billion.” Fox Business was first to report Bloomberg’s $2 billion spending plan.
Rush isn’t ignoring Bloomberg’s mistakes; he called stop-and-frisk policing “disgusting.” But he says every candidate has been apologizing for policies or votes that have negatively affected the black community. Bloomberg recently called stop-and-frisk “really wrong” after years of defending the policy, and as Rush points out, Joe Biden has apologized for supporting the 1994 crime bill that some say disproportionately affected blacks. And Warren issued a mea culpa for claiming she had Native American ancestry.
Sanders has been criticized for a lack of diversity in his campaign staff, while polling very low with older African American voters, who tend to be more conservative than the self-described Democratic-socialist. Sanders also supported the '94 Crime Bill.
But what makes Bloomberg far better than the other candidates in the race, Rush says, is that he will enact economic policies that will do more to strengthen the black community than any other candidate — even Sanders, who is running on a platform of massive redistribution of wealth to poor people through higher taxes and a vast expansion of the welfare state with programs like “Medicare-for-all.”
Rush, who has served in Congress since 1993, describes himself as a realist. And while Sanders’s platform might sound good, much of it is unrealistic given how far left he wants to take the country. In that belief, he joins another prominent African American politician, former President Obama, in being skeptical of a Sanders presidency, as FOX Business recently reported.
Obama, as reported by Fox Business, prefers his former vice president, Biden, who polls well with blacks in part because of this association. But Rush believes Biden and the others all lack a specific plan for black economic development that Bloomberg has offered.
Rush cites Bloomberg's “Greenwood Initiative," an economic development plan named after the famous African-American financial district in Tulsa, Okla., that was decimated during race riots in 1921. Under the plan, Bloomberg plans to spend $70 billion to increase homeownership and business in blighted communities of color across the country.
Bloomberg now has momentum, sustainability, and can actually get it done.
“The typical white family's net worth is $171,000 while the typical net worth of black families is $17,000 and that difference is largely tied to a lack of homeownership in the black community,” Rush said. “None of the other candidates are specific on these issues. We don’t want generalities. Bloomberg will invest $70 billion in my community. That is specific.”
The 73-year old Congressman agrees that the sentimental choice of many African Americans for president is Biden, but he adds now is not the time to be sentimental given the economic issues facing black Americans, and more importantly the need to defeat President Trump, which Bloomberg with his unlimited resources can do better than any Democrat running.
People who know Rush say his choice to bypass Biden was no surprise even if his Bloomberg endorsement was; Rush is said to personally dislike Obama from their days in Chicago political circles. Rush was the only politician to beat Obama in a political race after the former president challenged him for his congressional seat in 2000 losing to Rush in a particularly nasty primary battle.
But Rush said personal animus has nothing to do with his support for Bloomberg. He adds that he was one of the first prominent politicians to endorse Obama for president and continues to hold the former president in high regard.
Moreover now is not the time to look to the past, he said.
“Obama was a real president of African American advancement, an important figure for African Americans to see,” he said. “But we can’t be energized by that as important as it was … We can’t be energized by the sentimentality of having an African American president … We need to be focused on someone who can create policies that help the African American community.”
Bloomberg is sitting out the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in February to focus on the “Super Tuesday” races in March. Rush says as the former New York City mayor gains in national polls, the odds are growing for a so-called brokered convention, where no clear-cut winner emerges when the first ballots are taken at the Democratic convention in July. Those seeking the nomination need to campaign to woo delegates to their camp during the convention to secure a majority.
That’s where Bloomberg, using his financial might to woo voters — with ads and get-out-the vote efforts — will emerge in later ballots as the clear winner and could easily beat Trump on Election Day given the president’s unpopularity and Bloomberg’s ability to outspend any opponent.
We don’t want generalities. Bloomberg will invest $70 billion in my community. That is specific.
Bloomberg, or any Democratic candidate, will have their work cut out for them during the general election. Trump will run on a strong economy, and he has already been touting the decline in black unemployment to record lows. During the 2016 election, polls showed African American turnout to be far lower than during the Obama years.
Rush says those economic numbers are deceiving because of the continued wealth gap faced by African Americans and Rush believes the true base of the Democratic Party — the African American voter — will see through Trump's spin and turn out for Bloomberg because of his economic policies and sealing an election night victory in the fall.
“Lots of people, over half of the Congressional Black Caucus members have expressed interest in Bloomberg to me,” Rush said. “I’m getting lots of approval from and congratulations from CBC members on my endorsement of Bloomberg because he can beat Trump."
Rush added: "The Democratic Party needs to take their base out of the basement ... that's why I'm endorsing Bloomberg."