Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, denounced what he called the “demagoguery” in the Republican and Democratic Parties in a commencement speech delivered on Saturday at the University of Michigan.
“In this year’s presidential election, we’ve seen more demagoguery from both parties than I can remember in my lifetime,” he said, according a transcript of his remarks posted online.
While Mr. Bloomberg did not denounce any candidates by name, his remarks, which faulted the demonizing of immigrants and the wealthy and criticized Washington gridlock, appeared directed at Donald J. Trump and Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. Mr. Bloomberg compared the leading contenders from both parties, as a group, to a list of divisive figures from the 20th century, including Patrick J. Buchanan, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and Gov. George C. Wallace.
Like those demagogues of years past, he said, candidates in both political parties focus on blaming “easy targets who breed resentment” for the country’s problems instead of offering workable solutions.
“For Republicans, it’s Mexicans here illegally and Muslims,” he said, “and for Democrats, it’s the wealthy and Wall Street. The truth is, we cannot solve the problems we face by blaming anyone.”
“Every generation has had to confront its own demagogues, and every generation has stood up and kept them away from the White House, at least so far,” he told the graduates and their guests at the ceremony in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Now it’s your turn.”
Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent who was New York’s mayor from 2002 to 2013 and flirted with a White House bid this year, lamented what he called “a disturbing change in the nature of American politics: a rise in extreme partisanship and intolerance for other views.”
“Neither party has a monopoly on good ideas; each demonizes the other unfairly and dishonestly,” he said. He called for rewarding “those who reach across the aisle in search of compromise.”
Mr. Bloomberg attributed the chronic divisiveness of American politics, in part, to the rise of social media and the partisan splintering of television news.
He said politicians who took controversial stands were subjected to “millions of angry tweets and Facebook posts denouncing them in the harshest possible terms,” sent by citizens whose media landscape had been polluted by “partisanship or outright lies.”
“If we want to stop demagogues, we have to start governing again,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “And that requires us to be more civil, to support politicians who have the courage to take risks and to reward those who reach across the aisle in search of compromise.”