Michael Bloomberg, accepting the Third Lantern Award at the Old North Church in Boston, April 13

By Dan Murphy

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg went back to his boyhood home in Massachusetts to accept an award from the Old North Church in Boston. The Church is the famous location of Paul Revere’s ride through the city during the revolution.

During his speech in accepting the award, Bloomberg warned Americans that “intolerance is the gravest danger to American democracy.” And that intolerance comes from both sides of the political spectrum.

“Because this is our calling as Americans. To engage in this debate — civilly, democratically, and peacefully — not as enemies, but as fellow citizens. It is the essence of patriotism. And sadly, it is being jeopardized by one of the gravest dangers any democracy can face: righteous intolerance. More and more, there are people who look at US leaders from earlier generations and see flaws that should disqualify them from places of honor. To continue to honor them, these critics say, is to condone racism. Or sexism. Or homophobia. And they believe we should cleanse our public spaces of them, and relegate them to museums.

“On the other side, there are people who look at the same leaders and see virtues that should insulate them from all criticism. To call attention to their flaws, they say, is to hate America. And they are trying to cleanse schools of books that might make students feel uncomfortable if they were to learn about these flaws and other dark chapters in our history.

“Each side scorns the other with righteous intolerance. But I think most of us would agree with the idea that there is a reasonable middle ground. Because the fact is: We can honor a person’s good deeds and be critical of their failings. It’s not an either-or proposition. And doing both is a matter of national survival — because a nation that shares no heroes will not long be a nation. And a democracy that demands blind devotion to heroes will not long be a democracy.

“We are not a perfect country. But every time we face up to our mistakes and failures, we grow stronger — because patriotism doesn’t require perfection from the past. It requires honesty in the present. Each generation is called to refresh the story of America. Not to rewrite history — but to revisit it, and recast it, and reclaim it.

“And pass it down to the next generation of Americans, by teaching them about our civic foundations, cracks and all, so that they can continue the work of building a more perfect union. Sadly, there is growing evidence that we are failing to meet that responsibility — and we can see the failure on both sides of the political aisle — and again, the problem is the same: righteous intolerance.

“Today, there are militant groups that hark back to the American Revolution, with names like “The Oath Keepers” and “Three Percenters.” They see themselves as the heirs of the Sons of Liberty, even though their anti-government and often racist ideologies have far more in common with the old Confederates.

“While there will always be extremists in politics, before Jan. 6, 2021, we had never seen a mob storm the Capitol to block the peaceful transfer of power after an election. The truly disturbing part wasn’t what happened on that day — but in the days and months that followed. Far too many people in the former president’s party downplayed the attack, as if it were just another peaceful protest march

“To be clear: The righteous intolerance threatening democracy is a bipartisan problem. Almost a decade ago, when I gave a commencement speech at Harvard, I warned against a growing intolerance for free expression and the free exchange of ideas, especially on the left. Since then, the problem has gotten worse. And it has spread far beyond college campuses.

“People of all walks of life are increasingly afraid to speak their minds. They fear they might say something that could be taken the wrong way — leading them to be publicly humiliated, socially ostracized, and even fired from their jobs. This is another form of mob rule, and it shares a spirit with the mob that attacked the Capitol. Because, in both cases, the populist wings of our parties are taking a page from the Salem witch trials. They are convinced they know what justice requires based on their own morally absolute views — heretics be damned. And sadly, many elected officials in both parties quietly go along with them, to preserve their political careers.

“Although neither side wants to admit it, the challenges to democracy from the right and left are closely related. To stand up. To be heard. To be counted. And to be free to pursue our ambitions and express our beliefs. That has always been America’s fight —

“The legend of Paul Revere endures because the fight for freedom and equality for all has never ended. And just as we need Paul Reveres, we need leaders who hang lanterns high for all to see, and citizens who rouse from their slumbers when liberty is threatened, and young people who see that the next chapter in the story of America is theirs to write as they carry on the tradition of debating those “self-evident” truths — and putting their faith in their fellow citizens, even when they passionately disagree. Because that is the essence of democracy, and the obligation of patriotism,” said Bloomberg, whose words ring true for the millions of Americans who find themselves caught in between the far left and the far right, and are looking for someone in the middle, like Michael Bloomberg.

I wanted Bloomberg to run for President as an independent, third party candidate. He came close, but instead decided to enter the democratic primary for president in 2020. That disaster, was another reason why Bloomberg should have realized that he was without a party, and should form his own one.

Thank you Mayor Bloomberg for your words of wisdom. And please help us form a party for the 41% of Americans who view themselves as neither democrat or republican.