Billionaire Michael Bloomberg suddenly feels regret — just in time for his run for president. As mayor of New York for 12 years, Bloomberg oversaw an aggressive, tough on crime, stop-and-frisk policy that disproportionately targeted African Americans and Latinos. And for that he is sorry.
That wasn’t his story a few months ago. Before he decided to jump in the race to unseat President Donald Trump, Bloomberg was not a fan of admitting wrong and maligned an apology culture in politics. He mocked presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke for bowing to pressure: Biden for an “apology tour” after criticism of a crime bill some believe led to the mass incarceration of black men, and O’Rourke for apologizing for his white privilege.
Yet, there was Bloomberg a couple of weeks ago standing before a congregation at an African American megachurch in Brooklyn seeking mercy. He had not yet announced his run for president, but the rumors were strong that he was. Despite trash-talking Biden, now his, political rival, Bloomberg needs the African American vote, which accounts for about a fifth of Democrats.
A more than decade-long police state against brown people is not a good look. At the height of his stop-and-frisk program, police stopped 575,000 people under the policy, and African American and Latinos were stopped the most according to The New York Times. Police made about 685,000 stops in 2011 and 87% were African American or Latino. It was bound to come up during the election and Bloomberg obviously sought to head it off early. Else, he runs the chance of looking like Trump, who has praised such policies throughout his term.
Voters are holding candidates accountable for their past actions, but they shouldn’t stop their scrutiny at these apologies of convenience. Candidates need to prove their case beyond words. If not, people should show their displeasure at the ballot.
We have seen the consequences of indiscriminate arrests in Baltimore, which is dealing with a population of people with criminal records who can’t get jobs. The issue came up when former Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley made a bid for president. Some say it was one factor that hurt his chances. If Bloomberg doesn’t want to end up in the same predicament and really wants to prove he’s sorry, he needs to lay out policies to improve the lives of people hurt by his choices. Critics are already looking skeptically at his attempt at atonement and have questioned the timing. Many of those caught up in the arrests probably weren’t given the same benefit of the doubt for their indiscretions and mistakes.
Like with the other candidates in the race, we predict Bloomberg won’t be able to brush off such an issue that has morphed into an indictment of the fairness of the justice system. Biden learned the consequences of his past when his healthy lead slowly diminished after a few guffaws as he at first tried to ignore his role as author of the now highly polarized crime bill. Biden also appeared to praise the civility of segregationist senators he worked with in the past. A reply two weeks after the outcry for took too long to come for some people and was far too tepid for others.
“Now, was I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and again?” he said. “Yes, I was. I regret it. I’m sorry for any of the pain and misconception I may have caused anybody.”
Candidate Pete Buttigieg has tried to improve his reputation with African Americans with an 18-page platform of policy and reforms that would benefit those voters. He pledged to fund HBCUs in a recent op-ed in The Baltimore Sun.
Unfortunately for Buttigieg, a good majority of African Americans aren’t buying his spiel, including those in South Bend, Ind., where he is mayor. Too many residents there say he didn’t have a handle on injustices against blacks in the police department and economic racial inequalities that persist in the city.
Time will tell if Bloomberg’s speech was enough to shield him enough from criticism not to hurt his presidential bid.