Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in an Instagram post on Wednesday morning that he was changing his party affiliation for the third time this century.
“Today, I have re-registered as a Democrat,” part of the post read, “because we need Democrats to provide the checks and balance our nation so badly needs.”
Also, perhaps, because it’s the only way he can achieve his on-again, off-again aspirations of winning the White House. Speaking to the New York Times a few weeks ago about a possible candidacy in 2020, he conceded that winning as a Democrat was his only realistic option—as well as the only tasteful one. “It’s impossible to conceive that I could run as a Republican—things like choice, so many of the issues, I’m just way away from where the Republican party is today,” he said.
Yes, about that—he was “way away” from it well before yesterday, too. In October 2000, he switched his registration from Democrat to Republican, despite having donated $5,000 to NARAL in the recent past and telling the Washington Post just 12 months prior that he was “probably more of a liberal Democrat than most of [Bloomberg L.P.’s] customers.” But the 2001 mayoral race was a year off, and Bloomberg wanted no part of the four-way Democratic primary.
Despite rarely discussing his plans on the record in the lead-up to his campaign launch in June, it was openly acknowledged that his jump to the GOP was only for electoral convenience. A Daily News profile in March even claimed, unattributed, that “[h]e has said his reasons are purely strategic, aimed at separating himself from a crowded Democratic field.” Many in his circle of trust were prominent Democrats, whether a bit more to the right, like former Mayor Ed Koch, or to the left, like then-United Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. It was a Republican (Campaign) in Name Only—but a winning one, then in 2001 and again in 2005.
He remained on the train through 2006, when he told Manhattan Republicans that he couldn’t “be prouder to … be a Republican,” the Associated Press reported. But the nation was souring on the latter years of the Bush administration and GOP leadership in Washington. Democrats captured the House and de facto control of the Senate in the midterms. Republican prospects for electoral success nationally in 2008 looked dim (not that Bloomberg ever would’ve run as one outside New York, anyway). So he kept up with the times.
“I have filed papers with the New York City Board of Elections to change my status as a voter and register as unaffiliated with any political party,” he announced in June 2007. “Although my plans for the future haven’t changed, I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead our city.”
It was fair to question such "plans"—better put, his motives—given that the last time he switched parties was for campaign purposes. His calling card, instead, was nonpartisanship: He touted its merits in New York City—“We have achieved real progress by overcoming the partisanship that too often puts narrow interests above the common good,” he said—and beyond. In a speech in Los Angeles the day before he announced his switch, he called Washington (get this) a “swamp.”
But 11 years later, partisanship has new virtue, he says. “At key points in U.S. history, one of the two parties has served as a bulwark against those who threaten our Constitution,” is how he put it in his Instagram post. “Two years ago at the Democratic Convention, I warned of those threats.” He really didn’t: In a speech, he decried both major parties, saying “[n]either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership.” He spoke not about “the two parties,” but the era that preceded them. “When the Founding Fathers arrived here in Philadelphia to forge a new nation, they didn't come as Democrats or Republicans,” he said. No kidding.
In Internet culture, President Trump is said to have “a tweet for everything” when checking his rhetoric for inconsistencies with his past statements. For his fellow New Yorker, just swap “reason” for “tweet.”