Michael Bloomberg, Racist?

Last night, a liberal leaked the audio of a talk that Michael Bloomberg gave to the Aspen Institute in 2015. The audio apparently was recorded surreptitiously and the quality isn’t good. Reportedly there is a video recording, but Bloomberg has blocked it from being released. You can listen to the audio here, along with left-wing palaver about it.

These are the quotes that everyone is talking about. Bloomberg’s subject was crime and policing:

95 percent of your murders — murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass out to all the cops. They are male, minorities, sixteen to twenty-five. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city.

And that’s where the real crime is. You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed. You want to spend the money on a lot of cops on the streets. Put the cops where the crime is, which means in minority neighborhoods.

[The] way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the walls and frisk them… And then they start… ‘Oh, I don’t want to get caught.’ So they don’t bring the gun. They still have a gun, but they leave it at home.

Bloomberg’s comments were immediately denounced as racist across the political spectrum. President Trump tweeted about it:

Trump later deleted the tweet, presumably after remembering that he, too, has supported stop and frisk.

Several interesting questions emerge. First, was Bloomberg wrong? He spoke informally and he undoubtedly exaggerated. It isn’t true that 95% of murderers are minority males between 16 and 25, but it certainly is true that murderers (especially urban murderers) disproportionately come from that demographic. FBI data suggest that something like 55 percent of murders are committed by African-Americans, overwhelmingly male and under 35, with an indeterminate additional number committed by Hispanics. Asians account for hardly any. So Bloomberg exaggerated a reality that is, to be honest, understood by everyone.

Bloomberg was correct in saying that deploying police resources to high-crime areas has successfully reduced violent crime rates. Again, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Leaders in African-American neighborhoods have been calling for increased police protection for decades. Where that increased police presence has been provided, violent crime has declined. Bloomberg was also correct, I am sure, when he said that increased police presence inevitably resulted in more arrests for relatively minor crimes. I am not sure that anyone is being arrested for marijuana possession these days, and as far as I know no one is going to jail for it. But the broader point is accurate. And I believe crime data support Bloomberg’s more important point, that stop-and-frisk works to reduce crime.

So, was everything Bloomberg said true? No, it was exaggerated. But the points he made were broadly correct and until very recently were widely accepted.

Second, this incident shows how rapidly the ground has shifted under law enforcement. Only a few years ago, the successful employment of aggressive police tactics that saved cities like Bloomberg’s New York was being celebrated. Now, in the Democratic Party and even some precincts of the Republican Party, law enforcement is anathema. Liberals are happy to live in urban areas that are far more peaceful than they were 30 years ago, while feeling no gratitude toward the police officers or the anti-crime tactics that created those conditions.

Traditionally, aspiring politicians often began their careers as prosecutors and tried to establish a reputation as being tough on crime. Who knew that in 2020, being tough on crime would become a liability? Here in Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, now running for President, began her career as Hennepin County Attorney. She portrayed herself as a tough prosecutor, which, as far as I know, she was. But within the last week or two a local group has attacked Klobuchar in connection with the conviction of a gang member for the murder of a girl who was, as I recall, 12 years old. Until recently–what, last month?–putting away murderous gang bangers was a feather in the cap of any politician. Now, Klobuchar is being attacked for letting it happen. That story has not yet gone national, but if Klobuchar continues to rise in the polls, it will.

Third, what does this story mean for Bloomberg’s presidential chances? I think it deals them a severe blow. Bloomberg’s only real asset is money, and money (above a reasonable level) is relatively unimportant in contemporary politics. Bloomberg is not a persona that intuitively relates well to African-Americans. Trump has much more inherent appeal to that demographic, and today’s “scandal” would cause Bloomberg to hemorrhage black voters to Trump, should he get the nomination. In the shorter term, race-based attacks on Bloomberg will cost him quite a few votes among the “woke” whites who dominate most Democratic primaries.

In short, the Democrats’ already desperate presidential hopes suffered another blow today, if you assume that Bloomberg was ever a viable candidate.