When Bernie Sanders heard about the report that Amazon owner Jeff Bezos asked fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg whether he’d consider entering the 2020 presidential race, he could barely contain his laughter. Sanders laughed so hard that he couldn’t answer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was in Iowa campaigning for Sanders, took over and began answering the reporter’s question. “Of course!” she told the Des Moines Register. “They’ve got class solidarity. The billionaires are looking out for each other. They’re willing to transcend difference and background and even politics.” Ocasio-Cortez went on to note that “the fact that Bill Gates seems more willing to vote for Donald Trump than anyone else tells you everything you need to know about how far they’re willing to go to protect their excess, at the cost to everyday Americans.”
At that point, Sanders had managed to compose himself and he jumped in. “Jeff Bezos, worth $150 billion, supporting Mike Bloomberg, whose worth only $50 billion, that’s real class solidarity,” Sanders said, while continuing to chuckle. “I’m impressed by that grassroots movement.” Earlier in the day, at a summit on the climate crisis in Des Moines, Sanders sent a clear message to Bloomberg. “Tonight we say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires: Sorry you ain’t gonna buy this election.”
Sanders wasn’t the only candidate to mention the reported call. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also made light of the news with a tweet that was dripping in sarcasm. “One billionaire calls another billionaire and asks him to run for president—I’m shocked!” Warren tweeted.
“Here’s the deal: Companies like Amazon have too much power, and billionaires like @JeffBezos and @MikeBloomberg should pitch in so that everyone can succeed.”
Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez continued with that message in a joint interview with ABC News. Bloomberg’s seeming effort to jump into the race at this stage illustrates “the arrogance of billionaires,” Sanders said. “I’m doing five events this weekend right here in Iowa,” Sanders added. “We’re all over New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, California. But he’s too important. You see, when you’re worth $50 billion, I guess you don’t have to have town meetings, you don’t have to talk to ordinary people. What you do is you take out, I guess a couple of billion dollars, and you buy the state of California.”
The frequent mention of Bloomberg is more than just a talking point. Sanders is using his apparent entry into the race as a fundraising talking point. “Did you see the news? Mike Bloomberg is filing paperwork to run for President of the United States,” reads a recent email to supporters. “Just what America needs… another billionaire using his wealth to try to buy an election.”