Mr. Donald Trump is big news. With his outlandish attacks on respected political figures, blatantly racist remarks about ethnic groups making up significant portions of America, and a sassy debate demeanour that got millions of Americans hooked on GOP prime time, Trump has successfully weaselled his way into the political realm. This was further reiterated by his overwhelming victory in the New Hampshire primary, which is considered a strong indicator of who the respective party nominees will be. The message from the uprising of supporters bolstering Trump’s plagiarized “Make America Great Again” slogan across the country: a lot of money can get you a lot of support in American politics, no matter how un-American the base of your campaign is.
Now there’s another billionaire in town who puts Trump’s fortune to shame. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg flirting with the idea of running as an independent candidate has offered an Aspirin to migraine ridden Republican moderates contemplating the thought of a Trump nomination.
Normally, independent candidates in U.S. presidential elections aren’t given a second thought. The obstacles are too large and too frequent, the system is inarguably in favour of the two leading parties, and it is just flat out difficult to get yourself into the world of politics without a party backing. But given Bloomberg’s monetary privileges and previous elected office positions, Trump has proved that this is more than enough to be a competitive candidate. Throw in a skillful campaign manager, maybe a few radical ideas, and suddenly he is a force to be reckoned with.
Essentially, there is no doubt he can run. But the more pressing question is: given the consequences of a successful third party candidate, should he run?
In response to Bloomberg’s potential campaign claims, Republicans have welcomed the idea with open arms. Trump said he’d love the competition and the Republican National Committee Chairman said “We’ll take it”.
Democratic candidates, on the other hand, have stayed oddly quiet on the concern. The assumed fear of Bloomberg comes from him holding such liberal social views that could sway democratic voters, and in turn electoral college delegates towards his independent campaign.
Essentially, despite many assumptions and mass confusion, there are two main possible outcomes from any margin of a successful Bloomberg campaign. First, he could get just enough voters taken away from the Democratic nominee to give the Republican nominee the majority needed in the electoral college. This prediction, however, makes the fatal flaw of assuming voters are motivated by social concerns alone.
With this mistake in mind, we should also consider the possibility of him stealing votes from the Republican side. Bloomberg calling abortion a “fundamental human right” and pro-gay marriage could swing liberals just like his close relationship with Wall Street and economic conservatism could swing conservatives. In this case, Bloomberg could possibly undermine the Democratic and the Republican candidate from getting the majority they need in the electoral college (270 delegate votes), in turn sending the decision over to the Republican-majority House of Representatives in Congress. And although the nature of this outcome is unpredictable since the last time it occurred was in 1824, it is assumed members will vote along strict party lines. Given the current Republican majority in Congress, the U.S. may have a large, southern-boarder wall and the first president with his own board game.
Although the obstacles Bloomberg faces in getting to the impactful scenarios discussed above are considered insurmountable by some, it has happened before and it can quite possibly happen again. The 2016 election thus far has been a series of wild cards that no one is quite sure how to comprehend yet. One thing we can know for sure though is that a successful Bloomberg campaign has the potential to have a damaging impact on the fairness of the 2016 outcome.