Despite repeated assurances he would not do so, billionaire philanthropist and activist Tom Steyer—who has previously pledged his vast fortune to such causes as defeating the Keystone XL pipeline and mounting a national campaign demanding the impeachment of President Donald Trump—officially announced on Tuesday the launch of a 2020 campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
“It’s true,” Steyer said in a post on Twitter along with a kick-off campaign video. “I’m running for president.”
While Steyer’s work as a hedge fund manager and financier has resulted in what Forbes estimates is a $1.6 billion fortune, the newly-announced candidate states in his launch video that, unlike Trump, he is acutely aware of the injustice of a society in which some are able to hold enormous riches while others struggle to put food on the table.
“We have a society that’s very unequal and it’s really important for people to understand this society is connected,” says Steyer in the video. “If this is a banana republic with a few very, very rich people and everybody else living in misery—that’s a failure.”
Another Democratic candidate at this point in the primary race—especially one with Steyer’s outward pedigree and despite whatever bona fides or unique skills he brings to the table—was quick to draw ridicule and derision from progressive critics who said that his resources and the political machine he has built in recent years could be put to better use than by engaging in what is perceived as vanity project by many.
The Greenlining Institute’s Bruce Mirken, writing on his personal Twitter account, put it this way: “It’s pretty clear @TomSteyer is the answer to a question no one is asking.”
As writer Anand Giridharadas suggested, the very rich—whatever their intentions—cannot save us:
According to the New York Times:
While Steyer does not explicitly mention impeaching Trump in his campaign rollout, Salon‘s Sophia Tesfaye suggests his presidential bid could be enough to “shame” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats into taking more forceful action on the issue.
“Steyer’s public case for impeachment stalled out after he initially bowed out of the presidential race six months ago,” writes Tesfaye, “but his group, Need to Impeach, recently released a $1 million ad buy for national networks in New Hampshire and Iowa, criticizing Democratic Party leaders for doing nothing.”
Over at Splinter, journalist and commentator Libby Watson was having none of it in her column titled, “Tom Steyer Thinks You’re Stupid.” Of course, Steyer has every right to run for president if he wants to, argues Watson, but that’s not the point. She writes:
Steyer, however, made it clear he thinks he has a message worth sharing and—like other billionaire candidates before him—has the resources to fund his own campaign.
“Let’s take our democracy back from corporations and special interests,” Steyer added, “and give it to the people—the way it was always intended.”