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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Michael Bloomberg's entry into the 2020 presidential race was reflexively roasted in certain quarters as little more than a billionaire trying to buy an election — or, in the more succinct words of Anand Giridharadas, "plutes gonna plute."

Between the lines: What gets lost in between aren't the specifics of Bloomberg's record, or if he'd make a better or worse president than his rivals. It's the intrinsic value of entrepreneurship, and if that remains an aspirational touchstone for American voters.

The state of play: This was an issue raised by Sen. Cory Booker during the last week's presidential debate, when he argued that Democrats are doing themselves a disservice if they talk about taxing wealth to the exclusion of talking about creating wealth.

  • Those comments were directed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who repeatedly ignored the dichotomy — instead responding only with more detail about her wealth tax proposal.
  • Other than Booker, no one on stage mentioned "small business" or "entrepreneurs."

The big picture: Bloomberg, as one of America's most successful living entrepreneurs, has created and amassed a lot of wealth. More than any man could spend in his lifetime, and perhaps more than he could responsibly give away.

  • There should be a thorough accounting of how he made his money, and how it affected others along the way.
  • If there are legitimate criticisms, let 'em fly. Just as they should for any other part of his professional and personal conduct, in both the private and public sectors.
  • And there is certainly value in a robust debate over the future viability of plutocracy in America, including the idea of taxing wealth (as opposed to only taxing income).

Yes, but: Dismissing a candidate's validity because he was a very successful entrepreneur feels like something new in our politics and in our culture. A deliberate mildewing of the American Dream.

  • Of course it's unlikely that Bloomberg will become president. He has loads of unrelated liabilities. Let alone a very late start.
  • If he does indeed falter, though, pay close attention to the post-game analysis. Was it all of those other reasons, or because enough Americans have concluded that successful entrepreneurship has become a vice instead of virtue?

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.

Updated 8 hours ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.