With tensions high over the catastrophe that was the Democratic Party reporting process for the Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders campaign co-chair Nina Turner got into a bit of a tiff Monday evening with MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson over whether Michael Bloomberg was an “oligarch.”
Discussing the money Bloomberg has available to spend on his campaign, Turner said “people who believe in democracy” — this being code for the progressive left — should be “ashamed” that oligarchs can “buy” their way into an election.
Stirring the waters, MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews asked Turner, “Do you think Mike Bloomberg is an oligarch?”
Insisting the billionaire former New York City mayor is, Turner essentially said the Democrat National Committee is racist for changing the rules for 2020 candidates to get on the debate stage — the party did away with the individual donor threshold to qualify, if a candidate hits a polling threshold.
The rule change benefited Bloomberg, a late entry into the race.
“He skipped Iowa, Iowans should be insulted. Not going to New Hampshire. Buying his way into this race period,” Turner said. “The DNC changed the rules. They didn’t change it for Sen. [Kamala] Harris. They wouldn’t change it for Sen. [Cory] Booker. They didn’t change it for [HUD] Secretary [Julián] Castro. They changed it for the man with the money”
The three candidates she named are all people of color, while Bloomberg is white.
Insisting Bloomberg bought his way into the Democratic debates, she said it was “a stain on democracy.”
Turner went on to say Sanders is going to win by “building a grassroots movement.”
Matthews sent the joint coverage back to anchor Brian Williams, who pointed out that Johnson, political editor for The Root, “had such a reaction” to Turner’s remarks.
Williams then gave Johnson the floor, who went to bat for “rich guys.”
“Calling Mike Bloomberg an oligarch has implications in this country that I think are unfair and unreasonable,” he said. “I disagree with a lot of things Mike Bloomberg has done as a mayor. But oligarchy, in our particular terminology, it makes you think of some rich person who got their money off of oil in Russia, who is taking advantage of a broken and dysfunctional system. Mike Bloomberg is just a rich guy. America is full of rich guys. Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean that you’re an oligarch who abuses his power.”
“The power that Mike Bloomberg got access to was given to him by the voters of New York,” Johnson added. “It ain’t the kind of language you should be using. I think it’s dismissive, unfair and it’s the kind of thing that blows up in your face if you become the nominee and you have to work with Mike Bloomberg three or four months from now. That’s the issue Sanders people never seem to want to remember.”
In a later exchange, Turner responded with the class warfare rhetoric expected of a campaign touting a socialist candidate.
“It’s just ironic to me that somebody would defend the wealthiest people in this country over the working people in this country,” she said, going on to talk of “real campaign finance reform.”
“Maybe Jason likes the word elite over oligarch, but it’s the same attitude the elites had in 1930 over FDR,” Turner added. “Cry me a river for the wealthy people in this country.”
Johnson countered to say he has no problem “criticizing the system that allows Mike Bloomberg to make the money he makes… to buy what he wants to buy.”
“But to call him an oligarch is a misnomer in this environment,” he said, before flipping the script on Turner. “You’re working for somebody that’s part of the 1%. Do you call him an oligarch? No, you don’t. You say he’s a rich guy.”
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