Independents Win! Bloomberg Pulls Out

When former two-time New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ran for a third term in 2009 after amending the cities term limits law, he raised suspicion and even contempt among his critics. It didn't help when the billionaire went on to run the most expensive self-financing campaign in U.S. history, spending $108 billion of his personal fortune. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

This commentary was written by CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer.

Independent voters in this country won a huge victory when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he was not going to run for president.

Bloomberg isn't running, and indeed could not have run credibly, because independent voters have found candidates in the main parties that they like, for a change. That is a victory for independents, if not for Mayor Bloomberg.

Self-identified independents make up about one-third of the electorate. But they make up about one one-hundredth of the people who talk about politics on television, which is why you may think there aren't so many.

John McCain is extremely popular with these independents. So is Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton is not. If Obama gets the nomination, the election of 2008 will be a paradigm shift backwards to the days when candidates ran to capture the middle. In this case, regress is progress. Important progress

Even if there is a major transformation in the dynamics of electioneering in 2008, however, it does not follow that there will be a transformation of governance in 2009.

That is why I am still disappointed, though just mildly, that Bloomberg isn't running. Bloomberg would have had to govern independently. We would have had to have a bipartisan cabinet. He would have had to tick off both parties.

This would not be true of Obama or McCain.

The three or four regular readers of this column know I have been a shill for "Bloomberg 2008" for well over a year. My enthusiasm was inspired less by faith in the man than by the conviction that the two main parties are kaput. It is my view that any important and enduring improvement in the business of campaigning and governing cannot be spawned by the two party system.

That system is entrenched, intellectually and commercially, in a view of the country as polarized that is phony and destructive. Mainstream candidates, mainstream media and the mainstream political elite are heavily invested in polarization. It spawns good talk shows, fiery direct mail campaigns and rousing speeches. It's just that most voters aren't polarized. They're sensible, eclectic and independent-spirited.

Bloomberg knows this. So do Obama and McCain.

That does not mean there aren't intense and significant differences between Americans, the parties and between Obama and McCain. Of course, there are. There are intense differences on some important issues between almost any two people you pick randomly. That is not polarization. That is freedom. Polarization is the Civil War or the protests of the sixties.

If Obama gets the Democratic nomination, 2008 will be a transformational election, and not just because Obama would be the first black presidential candidate from the two party system. It will represent the resurrection of the independent voter.

But a transformational campaign does not mean a transformed government or style of governing. Bloomberg, or another independent president, would have provided that. Obama or McCain could provide that. It would be in spite of two parties.

Still, Bloomberg's withdrawal is a huge win for independents, ironically. It shows that the two parties have produced candidates independent voters like, for a change.



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By Dick Meyer
  • CBSNews

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