3:25 pm Sep. 26, 20123
American history is filled with stories of married couples—one a Democrat, the other a Republican—going to the voting booths and canceling each other out. Such lore is a national tradition, and pillar of our democratic system.
But seldom does a single individual manage this act of self-cancellation, essentially nullifying his own political participation by supporting a set of causes and then funding its most ardent opponents. The pioneer of this unusual approach is Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is among the most outspoken and generous advocates for gun control in the nation. He rails against politicians who take the easy way out by bemoaning the scourge of gun violence but refusing to confront the politically powerful National Rifle Association. He spends millions funding Mayors Against Illegal Handguns, and developing a policy agenda for combating and solving gun crime, including the imprint of markings on shell casings—a process called microstamping.
And, as we’ve learned yet again today, he gives tons of money to Republican officials who stand in the very way of these same gun safety measures.
The latest example comes today, with news that the mayor has pumped a million dollars into the New York State Senate Republicans, a staggering and perhaps unprecedented donation to a state legislative conference. (This follows Bloomberg's support for the re-election of Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, an N.R.A.-approved Republican running against a liberal Democrat.)
The Republican Senate conference in Albany blocked microstamping when it was passed by the Assembly for five straight years. At that time, Bloomberg led a furious lobbying effort to persuade G.O.P. senators of the merits of the “new tool to solve gun crimes.”
What Bloomberg either doesn’t understand or won't acknowledge is that his words have little influence over these pols, because they can’t damage the officials’ political prospects. But his money—that’s another thing altogether.
This is not complicated. If Michael Bloomberg wants to gain traction in pushing gun control laws, financially supporting candidates who actually share this agenda, and trying to oust those who do not, is the better use of his money.
Of course, few among us are single-issue voters. And if Bloomberg wants to support Republicans on the basis of a range of issues, that’s obviously his right.
But he shouldn’t feign outrage or powerlessness when nothing happens to achieve his gun control agenda. He has billions of ways to move things along, if he'd only put them to use in a way that isn't a self-contradiction.
Blake Zeff is a former presidential campaign aide to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and a former aide to Chuck Schumer and Eric Schneiderman.