Bloomberg: Independent President “A Good Idea”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg thinks a President independent of either political party would be a good idea. Is he right?

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said during a forum at Harvard last night that a President not bound to either party would be a good thing:

NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent who has considered running for president, declared Monday that an independent has a better chance at succeeding in the White House than a Republican or a Democrat.

The billionaire Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent mayor toyed with a third-party run in 2008 but ultimately abandoned the idea. He has said unequivocally he won’t run in 2012, but during a forum at Harvard University on Monday he endorsed the idea of an independent in the White House.

“I think actually a third-party candidate could run the government easier than a partisan political president because the partisan political president – yeah he’s got half the votes, but he can’t get the others – whereas the guy in the middle may very well be able to get enough across the aisle,” Bloomberg said.

Leaving aside the merits, or (mostly) lack thereof, of Bloomberg himself running for President, Bloomberg’s general idea of a President not tied to either political party trying to deal with a Congress dominated by Republicans and Democrats strikes me as rather unrealistic.

For one thing, it would be next to impossible for such a President to get anything resembling his agenda through a Congress dominated by people who owe him nothing and have no loyalty to him. Instead of just taking it from one side, an “independent” President would be taking it from both sides, thus making it highly unlikely that he’d be able govern without allying himself in some respect with one party or the other.

Of course, if we ever did have an independent President it would mean that there had been a tectonic shift in American politics. We would have “independent” Members of Congress, Senators unaffiliated with either party. In short, a system unlike anything we have now. That’s why all this talk about an independent candidate in 2012 is so much nonsense. The most such a candidate could do is force the election into the House of Representatives by denying either major party candidate a majority in the Electoral College. That, of course, would mean that the party who controlled the House would end up picking the President, and it’s not too hard to figure out how that might happen.

Even if an independent President were a good idea as Bloomberg suggests, then, it’s not something that is going to happen unless things change very drastically.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tano says:

    And can you imagine if you had a substantial number of independent members of Congress? Its hard enough herding cats in either political party once it has a majority (and thus has members that are somewhat distant from the core ideology). Although it is easy on some level to criticize the notion of party discipline – with members voting the way their party wants them to vote without much thought – it seems necessary if anything is ever to get done.

    Note – not getting things done is not the same thing as having a minimal-sized government.

  2. john personna says:

    I think you are considering it without the accompanying mandate.

    Of course when we blue sky it, there is no mandate, and so no one would take it seriously.

  3. TG Chicago says:

    What we need are politicians who are independent of the influence of lobbyists and huge injections of corporate cash. Obviously that’s not going to happen in our current system. We need to go to public financing of campaigns.

    Today, the only way an independent voice can get heard is if the candidate is independently wealthy. Otherwise, the only voices we hear are those beholden to their big donors. It’s not a democratic system.

  4. mpw280 says:

    Maybe but not him, that is for sure. mpw

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Sure it’s a good idea. Wouldn’t a perpetual motion machine be great? Or a single elixir that would cure all ills?

  6. JKB says:

    Yes, we need a president who can work with both sides to develop a coalition of support for measures. One who can find common ground with those of other parties. Or to put it another way, a president with experience accomplishing tasks in a contentious environment. Just as a reminder, up until 1994, all Republican presidents had to contend with a Democrat controlled congress, yet they accomplished quite a lot. In short, one who is not Barack “I won” Obama but more like Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, Eisenhower, Johnson, etc.

  7. Dave,

    You forgot about cold fusion 🙂

  8. John.

    If it ever happens, it will be in a different political system than we have now where the two major parties are far weaker than they are right now.

    Also, we’ll have time travel and unicorns by then

  9. TG,

    “Lobbyists” have existed as long as government has had the power to grant benefits. Take that away, and the lobbyists will disappear

  10. Dave Schuler says:


    I don’t think that you need to remove the power to grant benefits. All I think you need to do is raise costs and reduce the benefits.

  11. James Joyner says:

    Jesse Ventura tried this without much success. Arnold Schwarzenegger, while a nominal Republican, tried it as well. Ditto.

  12. Dave,

    I think as long as there’s a government that hands out contracts, grants tax breaks, protects copyrights, patents, and trademarks, makes laws, etc., etc., etc., there will be interest groups motivated to lobby legislators to act in their interests. Even if you make it more difficult to do in one way, they’ll find another way to do it. In some sense, it’s human nature I think

  13. john personna says:

    It always seems that the 2 party debate reduces to:

    “We’re screwed no matter what, so this is the best of all possible worlds!”

    Best in that non-screwed worlds are not possible.

  14. John Peabody says:

    Thanks, James, for mentioning Jesse Ventura. The legislature and the governor were at odds the whole term. No one was happy, except for the dreamers in other states who thought it was ‘cool’.