Perhaps in normal times, Michael Bloomberg’s presidential candidacy would have been destroyed by the charges of racism and sexism hurled at him by the other candidates at the Democrat debate on Wednesday in Las Vegas. However, as Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic magazine pointed out, in this era of the callout culture, most people will probably overlook those charges because they are so used to hearing them.
Friedersdorf makes the case for this on Thursday’s Atlantic website in “Why Callout Culture Helps Mike Bloomberg.” The subtitle explains why he thinks the public is now so inured to such charges: “The Democratic base has been crying wolf in matters of racism and sexism.”
I fear that even the most careful, accurate, damning critiques of Bloomberg on these matters will have trouble breaking through to all but the most informed Democratic voters. Casual media consumers are inundated with hyperbolic, frivolous, and slight accusations related to racism or sexism. As a result, many now reflexively discount all criticism of that sort while others seem unable to distinguish mortal from venial sins.
A reflexive discounting of racism charges was on display during a recent Bill Maher monologue. The HBO host said, “Well, Bloomberg must be the front-runner, because liberals are calling him a racist.”
Friedersdorf attributed some of the blame to a recent Washington Post op-ed which he used as an example of being unable to distinguish trivial from serous charges:
As for a failure to distinguish serious transgressions against racial equality from trivial distractions, consider a Washington Post op-ed that ran last week. In the op-ed, titled “Pete Buttigieg’s Race Problem,” a professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Tyler D. Parry, said of white Democratic candidates, “Each of them has been criticized for harboring a superficial understanding of American anti-blackness, if not manifesting outright racism.” Oddly, the op-ed didn’t mention Bloomberg or his candidacy at all, but noted that “Amy Klobuchar has a questionable prosecutorial record; Joe Biden has drawn criticism for his voting record on civil rights legislation; Elizabeth Warren’s campaign was accused of marginalizing staffers of color, for which she apologized; and Bernie Sanders was criticized for conflating the conditions of poor whites with people of African descent. But it is Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., who arguably demonstrates the most consistent racial ignorance among his cohort.”
And as a result of the party that cried wolf way too often on racism and sexism, Bloomberg could be getting a pass on those charges according to Friedersdorf.