By Logan Jenkins
For the first time in my life, I’m driving with a political bumper sticker on my car.
In my closet, I have two T-shirts with “I Like Mike” stenciled on the front.
Unbelievably, I’ve volunteered to knock on doors, work phones, display a yard sign, serve as a surrogate, do whatever I can to help Mike Bloomberg win delegates in California and go on to claim the nomination in Milwaukee.
Frankly, it feels wildly out-of-body to be exposing my unqualified (and unpaid) support for a presidential candidate.
As a retired San Diego Union-Tribune columnist who touted his nonpartisan independence — his militant moderation, if you will — it goes against the grain to suit up as a besotted cheerleader for one team.
Well, desperate times call for desperate measures outside the comfort zone.
For those who might accuse me of jumping on the former three-term New York mayor’s rich bandwagon just as its picking up steam, let me say I was on board long before the musicians unpacked their instruments.
Eighteen months ago, I wrote a U-T column that reflected my objective view that just one American politician was ideally equipped to unhorse President Trump and “bridge the divide between two increasingly extreme national parties that are, in their own self-serving ways, poisoning the country’s bloodstream.”
Yes, I conceded in the summer of 2018, Bloomberg had been the Hamlet of American presidential politics, vacillating from Democrat to Republican to independent and back to Democrat. He’d flirted with presidential runs in 2008 and 2016 only to retreat into the background.
He was, however, dropping hints he would run against Trump, a fellow New Yorker. I jumped at the bait.
To my bitter private disappointment, Bloomberg deferred to the populous field of candidates that included familiar names (Biden, Sanders, Warren) and interesting unfamiliar ones (Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Yang).
As the early primaries unfold in all their whacky folksiness, it’s anyone’s guess if Bloomberg, who saw ominous Democratic polling in battleground states and entered the campaign late, can amass enough delegates on Super Tuesday and beyond to win the nomination outright (fairly unlikely) or be a major player, or better yet the compromise nominee, in a contested convention.
So far, the polls are revealing a growing appetite for a self-made billionaire who wants to spend all his gifts before he dies, whose public service is not limited to just boutique issues but includes the hard, daily work leading a metropolis that reflects America in its struggle toward equal opportunity and dignity for all.
It’s no surprise that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren stoke the populist desire on the left for revolution. It’s no wonder that Joe Biden comforts but fails to energize. It’s not a shock that Mayor Pete argues for a new generation to seize the anti-Trump torch.
If the Democrats nominate any of these candidates, however, I’m just a deflated observer, bracing for Trump’s re-election and God knows what slapstick chaos to follow.
If, however, Democrats really want to cancel the Trump surreality show, they’ll link arms with independents like me and grant the nomination to a low-key guy whose intellect, executive experience and moral grounding are beyond reasonable debate.
Of course, social media, or Russian bots, will attack with OMG! snark on Big Gulps, the admitted excesses of stop-and-frisk, and old me-too moments. (That’s the par for the corrosive course.)
Encouragingly, a growing list of mayors, including Chula Vista’s Mary Salas, Imperial Beach’s Serge Dedina and Lemon Grove’s Racquel Vasquez, and legislators, including Rep. Scott Peters, are seeing the light I’ve long seen at the end of the dark Trumpian tunnel.
Can-do sanity (not just populist revolution) is in the air.
Several weeks ago, I stood in an Allied Gardens backyard and listened to Mayor Bloomberg give a 15-minute stump speech to gun violence activists (one of his major causes, along with climate change).
From 6 feet away, I was struck by how normal the mayor seemed. Commanding but self-critical. Few if any rhetorical flourishes. No flashes of anger or grievance. Wry, self-deprecating humor but no canned horse-laugh lines. His admirable, if not absolutely perfect, governing record (and, to be sure, the confidence of billions of dollars) spoke reassuring volumes.
Some might think so.
He’s neither Obama nor Trump, two master, if polar opposite, showmen.
But to this militant moderate worried sick about the Trumpian world his grandchildren might inherit, Mike is the only answer to prayer.
Logan Jenkins retired a year ago after 22 years as a news columnist at the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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