Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump’s shared love of executive power makes them strongman soulmates

Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump in 2007 in Manor, New York.

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Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump in 2007 in Manor, New York.
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CLINT SPAULDING/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images
  • Mike Bloomberg and President Trump have a lot in common, including a penchant for pushing executive power to its limits.
  • From the expansion of stop-and-frisk to his soda tax to the elimination of term limits, Bloomberg used his power as mayor to unilaterally push through all kinds of policies.
  • Also like Trump, Bloomberg has downplayed the actions of authoritarian leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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Mike Bloomberg’s opponents at this week’s Democratic debate ripped into him as a Trump-adjacent interloper to their party. They hit him for his ostentatious display of wealth, his alleged misogyny, and his long tenure overseeing abusive policing tactics.

But there’s another analogue that Bloomberg’s five rivals on the Las Vegas stage missed: The three-term former New York City mayor’s shared instinct with the 45th president when it comes to the use of sweeping executive authority.

The most memorable line of Trump’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention was “I alone can fix it.” And he’s followed that up by issuing more executive orders in three years in the White House than Barack Obama did in eight.

Bloomberg would be unlikely to vocalize his intentions as crudely as Trump, but he shares a similar messiah complex.

Bloomberg wants to save you, whether you like it or not

Mike Bloomberg’s legacy as the unfailing champion of the New York Police Department’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program is finally receiving long-overdue scrutiny. That’s partly because of his suspiciously timed and fact-tortured apologies for the thousands of lives forever changed after such stops led to criminal charges for low-level marijuana possession.

But he’s never apologized for supporting the NYPD’s warrantless surveillance of Muslim communities (some of which took place outside the city’s jurisdiction) and which the NYPD said never generated a single viable lead.

No matter, Bloomberg said of the government-sanctioned harassment of American citizens: “We have to keep this country safe.” Such a sentiment tracks with his overwrought 2013 defense of stop-and-frisk as the only way to keep young men from carrying guns on the street – lest “you turn the city over to the criminals literally overnight.”

Gun crime and Islamist terrorism were hardly his only concerns while in office.

As the former mayor put it, also in 2013, “We have a responsibility as human beings to do something, to save each other, to save the lives of ourselves, our families, our friends, and all of the rest of the people that live on God’s planet.”

What executive action could inspire such grandiose rhetoric? His proposed ban on sugary drinks, which for some reason didn’t include juices, over 16 ounces.

Like stop-and-frisk, Bloomberg’s “soda ban” was eventually struck down by the courts. As for the warrantless surveillance of Muslims, the city settled three lawsuits without admitting wrongdoing.

Soda ban or not, the junk-food-loving mayor was so committed to “saving” his fellow New Yorkers from obesity that he banned private food donations to homeless shelters because the city could not verify their salt or fat contents.

The do-gooder mayor also felt he could “save” a working-class neighborhood by kicking people out of their homes and businesses and handing the land over to one of his millionaire real-estate-mogul buddies. Seriously.

Bruce Ratner, a developer, wanted the land surrounding Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards rail yard, to build the Barclays Center, now the home of the NBA’s Nets. The land was worth billions, but some people understandably didn’t want to be displaced and refused to sell.

Bloomberg lobbied to have the neighborhood declared “blighted,” which allowed the state to seize it through eminent domain and hand it over to Ratner – under the guise that this private real-estate project would improve the community. A decade later, the arena is a money-loser, and the grand promises of a massive boost of affordable-housing inventory and an influx of jobs have failed to materialize.

And in his most undemocratic of initiatives designed to “save” the city, a term-limited Bloomberg persuaded the city council to fast-track a bill that would allow him to overturn the voter referendum imposing mayoral term limits. Bloomberg’s thinking was that he was the only leader equipped to shepherd the city through a time of crisis.

As then-Rep. Anthony Weiner put it at the time: “Everyone can see that this is a back-room, insider deal that takes away New Yorkers’ right to vote.” Shortly after spending over $100 million on his campaign and narrowly winning a third term, Bloomberg reinstated term limits.

Admiring dictators, but in a nice way

Trump’s admiration of dictators is no secret. And while he sometimes is impressed by their policies – like Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s greenlight for thousands of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers – he mostly admires their brute displays of controlling the populace.

Bloomberg’s not like that. He styles himself as a benevolent supreme leader.

Bloomberg recently defended the Chinese government – which reportedly has at least 1 million people enslaved in “reeducation” camps – as being “responsive” to their constituents, and roundly rejected applying the “dictatorship” label to the Chinese President Xi Jinping. Bloomberg appreciates the can-do nature of a totalitarian government that invests in green technologies and prioritizes “results.”

That’s because the world’s eighth-richest man, who once described the NYPD as “my own army … which is the seventh biggest army in the world,” knows he knows better than the little people with their due process and constitutional protections.

Bloomberg’s running as the antidote to Trump, but when it comes to their belief in the guiding hand of iron-fisted authority, they’re strongman soulmates.