Thursday, June 26, 2008

Patriot Games

Things that bother me about election campaigns:
#1: When candidates claim God for their side for political expedience or really anything else.
#2: When candidates wrap themselves in the Declaration of Independence and/or Constitution, claiming to be the true 'candidate of the people'.

The first one has been a recent trend, which I hope is on the way out. I haven't heard too much of it during this campaign. The second one happens every election, without fail.
The fact is that these days if you're campaigning for president or any leadership office, you kind of have to think that you're better than everybody else. And you kind of have to rely on more than just the grassroots people. For a presidential campaign to succeed, candidates also need the big donors, and no matter what they say they will use them. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post points out in her column "Patriot Games" that Obama has been impressively successful at raising grassroots money-- in many ways, his primary campaign will go down in political history because of that feat. But in the general election campaign, he can't hide the fact that although he has refused public funding (which is by and large fine and certainly politically smart), his general election campaign will not be funded exclusively by "the people", the average working- and- middle-class people. As Marcus wrote,

"I don't take issue with Obama's decision to opt entirely out of the public financing system. That was bound to happen eventually. Obama is smart to exploit his fundraising advantage over McCain. The political price of his about-face will be negligible. Likewise, I don't begrudge Obama his bundlers -- or Clinton's bundlers, for that matter.

What's galling is Obama's effort to portray himself through this entire episode as somehow different from, and purer than, the ordinary politician. Different might have been coupling the announcement with a self-imposed limit on the size of donations. Different might have been -- it could still be -- taking the big checks but acknowledging that, since bundlers will be bringing in even bigger hauls, disclosure should be adjusted accordingly, to reveal not only who raised $200,000 but also who brought in $500,000, who $1 million."

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