So-called moderate Democrats in New Jersey and New York are flocking to the self-funded candidacy of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, pausing hardly at all, it seems, to consider — or remember — the suspect policies, especially in the realm of civil rights, that were so deeply troubling and that he fully supported during his long tenure as New York City mayor.
Two of these policies stand out as especially egregious: the so-called “stop-and-frisk” crime fighting strategy aimed primarily at young men of color, whereby they were routinely detained by police and searched for weapons and drugs; and the New York Police Department’s sweeping, years long surveillance program in Muslim neighborhoods that spread into New Jersey and caused all manner of havoc and anxiety in Paterson, New Brunswick and elsewhere.
Indeed, the Muslim surveillance, carried out by the NYPD on mosques, bakeries and even university student centers during the Bloomberg years as mayor, and the stop-and-frisk policies are, in actuality, not so far removed from President Donald Trump’s current policy toward undocumented immigrants, or his travel ban on people from “Muslim” countries.
They all smack of racial, ethnic or religious “profiling,” which goes against the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution.
“Mr. Bloomberg’s and Mr. Trump’s actions are hand-in-glove the same thing,” Army Sgt. Syed Farhaj Hassan, a Middlesex County resident and decorated Iraq War veteran, said in an interview with NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey. Hassan said Bloomberg’s actions are “still causing issues between Muslim communities and law enforcement.”
As for stop-and-frisk, a policy Bloomberg defended for years, and for which he issued what seemed a heartfelt apology last November, many Democratic politicians across New Jersey seem willing to forgive, forget and move on, citing, if not audibly then at least in private, that ever-operative word, most well-worn in the Democrats’ 2020 playbook: “electability.”
“My concern is that we have to beat Donald Trump,” acknowledged Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, whose city is home to thousands of practicing Muslims.
“I think ‘stop-and-frisk’ was wrong, and that’s looking at it through the lens of being a father who has four sons who walk out the house on any given day with a hoodie and backpack,” said LeRoy Jones, the Essex County Democratic Party chairman, who is black.
However, as Jones told Record political columnist Charles Stile, he was impressed that Bloomberg admitted he was wrong, “something that is not the norm in our business.”
Certainly, Bloomberg has appeal for Democrats who carry the “moderate” banner in New Jersey, and who believe they will need a strong name at the top of the ticket to help carry the day in November. The fact that the well-funded latecomer speaks with authority on gun control, climate change and economic revival that targets both working-class families and low-income communities may be commendable, but it doesn’t represent the whole picture.
Democrats who clamber aboard the Bloomberg train so early in the process, perceiving him as the “only one who can beat Trump,” would do well to study up and be prepared to defend the former mayor’s full record — including these odious law enforcement policies that he endorsed, time and again, and which left assorted scars across minority communities in the New York metro area that are only now beginning to heal.