Earlier this week new video and audio surfaced of presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg defending police practices under his administration as mayor of New York City. In the clips, a blunt Bloomberg explained that he sent more police to minority, mostly black and Latino, neighborhoods because that’s where most of the violent crime was. He further said the controversial practice called “Stop, Question, and Frisk” (SQF) was needed to get illegal guns off the streets of Gotham.
Almost immediately, Twitter lit up with the hashtag #BloombergIsRacist. Leftists, who can find racism in a glass of milk, were giddy with disdain. Even though Bloomberg had wrongheadedly apologized for SQF, his use of the term “throw them against a wall” to describe frisking got him back in the hot water of identity politics.
There are some legitimate civil liberties concerns about SQF, although living in a city the size of New York comes with some loss of personal freedoms. But the application of SQF was not motivated by race, it was motivated by policing where the crime is. It’s was what Thomas Sowell called disparity rather than discrimination.
Conservatives also jumped on the bandwagon. Even the president tweeted (but then deleted) the allegation that Bloomberg is a racist. But here’s the thing. Mike Bloomberg is not a racist. The allegation, much like similar ones levied at Trump, only make sense if you apply the left’s perverse logic in which everything is racist. For conservatives, this is not so much an opportunity to hurt Bloomberg, but to defend Trump.
There are a few reasons conservatives might want to pour gasoline on the Bloomberg race fire, but before getting into them, try a virtual experiment. If you told most conservatives that a generic big city mayor had drastically reduced crime by applying aggressive police tactics that disproportionately affected black and Latino neighborhoods where the most crime was committed, few if any would call that mayor racist. The only reason some are doing so now is that Bloomberg is running for president.
There are electoral reasons conservatives might want to help paint Bloomberg as racist, even if they don’t really believe it. They may view him as the biggest threat to Trump, or they may just want to ding as many Democrats as possible to create infighting and a fractured resistance to the president. But this is political roulette. Remember how desperate Democrats were for the easily beatable Trump to be the GOP nominee in 2016? Be careful what you wish for.
But the more common reason that conservatives are embracing the claim about Bloomberg is a kind of ideological whataboutism. “They made the rules” is a common refrain, suggesting that if the left wants to call everyone racist then a candidate hoping to fly their banner must be hoisted by his own petard. This is almost certainly what Trump was engaged in with his tweet. There is little to no chance that he honestly thinks Bloomberg, whom he has praised in the past as a good mayor, is a racist.
This trolly approach with its healthy dose of schadenfreude is understandable, but it’s also wrong. The larger opportunity here is to use this incident to expose how irrational leftist definitions of racism are. For them, racism is not about any outward, or even hidden, animosity towards any group, which is the literal definition of racism. It’s rather about refusing to condemn systems that they claim are oppressive and thus refusing to support left-wing proposals they claim will fix the situation.
That is the “racism” that Mike Bloomberg is accused of and the exact same “racism” Trump is widely charged with, including by Democratic presidential candidates, and it’s a big load of garbage. The double standard is real. Democrat Ralph “Blackface” Northam is still governor of Virginia, after all. But rather than using Saul Alinsky tactics against Bloomberg, conservatives should use this opportunity to drag the leftist view of racism and in so doing defend President Trump.
This also makes political sense. Trump himself, as recently as 2015, vociferously defended SQF and even suggested it be used across the country. That will come back to haunt him if he now says it was racist. Far better it would be to point at this situation and say, “You see, this is exactly what they do to me, smear me with politically driven, nonsensical allegations of racism.” It’s a powerful argument.
Some believe Trump’s victory in 2016 had little to do with ideas and much to do with stirring the pot and being a fighter. The latter played a role, but so did the former. Most Americans reject the identity politics of the left. This ridiculous claim that Bloomberg is a racist is a perfect opportunity to show them that conservatives agree.