Mayor Bloomberg, The Great Liberal Ally? Not So Fast

Elahe Izadi

A billionaire who pours money into backing gun control and also endorsed President Obama because of his stance on climate change -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to have positioned himself as the perfect liberal ally.

But while Bloomberg is pushing progressive agenda items – via both lip-service and money – he’s also a staunch supporter of policies that bristle liberals, too.

Sure, Bloomberg is a financial counterweight to the powerful National Rifle Association – he’s dropping $12 million on ads to pressure senators to support gun control legislation. The ad buy comes ahead of Obama traveling the country to rally support for gun control measures.

Back in New York City, Bloomberg is a staunch defender of the controversial stop-and-frisk policing strategy, which lets officers make warrantless stops of anyone deemed suspicious. The policy came under scrutiny in a federal court last week with supporters – including Bloomberg’s administration – saying it’s helped bring crime down to historic lows, that officers should be able to stop anyone they deem suspicious and that the policy has helped make predominately black and Latino neighborhoods safer. “There is no denying that stops take guns off the street and save lives,” Bloomberg has said.

Opponents of stop-and-frisk, including national and state civil liberties and civil rights groups, criticize the policy as an invasion of privacy or legally sanctioned racial profiling, since the majority of those stopped are black and Latino males. Bloomberg’s staunch defense of stop-and-frisk in the face of such national opposition from the left contrasts with the support he’s getting from similar sectors on the role he’s playing in the gun control debate.

Bloomberg is no stranger to attracting scorn in the national spotlight. His big soda ban, which a state Supreme Court judge halted this month before it went into effect, was the hallmark of Bloomberg’s high profile public health initiatives. While it has endeared him to public health advocates focused on the country’s obesity epidemic, the soda ban has officially become a lightning rod for conservatives.

The soda ban was everyone’s favorite punch line at conservative confab CPAC – most notably when Sarah Palin sipped from a Big Gulp while quipping “Oh, Bloomberg’s not around, our Big Gulp is safe.” The soda ban inspired Mississippi’s “anti-Bloomberg bill,” which prevents municipalities from passing regulations on food and drinks, ranging from posting calorie counts on menus to capping portion sizes. Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz even introduced a “Bloomberg Big Gulp” amendment that would have prevented the federal government from regulating food and drink sizes.

The soda ban wasn’t beloved by all Democrats or folks on the left, either. Democratic New York Mayoral candidate Christine Quinn doesn’t support the soda ban. “This is what makes liberals look bad. This is what makes liberals look like elitist bullies,” HBO host Bill Maher said on his show.

Bloomberg, of course, switched party affiliations from Democrat to Republican to Independent, so it makes sense that he’s not going to be in lockstep with any particular side on ideology. Rather, he wholeheartedly seizes upon particular issues he feels strongly about and marches on. So while it’s tempting to forget when Bloomberg’s giving liberals support in areas where they need to most, it’d be wise to remember: a man who marches to the beat of his own drum isn’t always the most reliable.