Friday, June 20, 2008

Senator Expedience

Sen. X had promised to use public financing, but now he has opted to go back on his word. This upsets me in so many ways.

One, lying is bad enough.

Two, although we’ve come to expect promise-breaking from pols, it’s particularly egregious coming from Sen. New Kind of Politics.

Three, promise-breaking on this particular issue is so symbolic, because everyone knows campaign finance is at or near the heart of the worst problems in politics.

Four, the rationale for this promise-breaking is utterly clear: Sen. Expedience realized he could raise way more private money than Sen. McCain, and public financing would have taken away this advantage.

I'm utterly and bitterly disappointed in Sen. Obama, which probably means he'll win.


-Dave said...

Five: Despite the rationale being as clear as Tahoe in the 1800s, the given rationale is that hostile 527s would tilt the balance unfairly against him - despite the fact that 15 of the top 20 527 groups in the 2004 election were Democratic, and outsepnt the Republican Groups $354 million to $86 million.

A Democratic friend and I were talking to my Democratic roommate last weekend about Obama and Hillary. My roommate is an Obama believer. My other friend was a Hillary supporter. Our argument was that Obama was, at the end of the day, just another politician - not some above-the-fray political messiah. Each time an instance of Obama's pure politicing was cited, the counter argument was "Well, Hillary did X, too."

He has nice, lofty words. But as the saying goes, talk is cheap.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

If he wins, you bet I'll be moving to Japan.

Kenny said...

I can't tell if you're being funny or serious, Romanos. But if serious, what's better about Japan?

Ben said...

Points 1 and 2 are fair.

I'll address point 3. One of the most encouraging recent trends in politics is the rise of the small donor. Instead of the relatively few rich and powerful who can afford $2,000 a plate campaign events, Obama (and before him Howard Dean) has managed to raise record amounts of money from average folks who pay what they can afford. Personally, I think this is the best thing to happen to American democracy in decades. Instead of a system being fueled by the money of the few and powerful, we have the people actually taking back some control.....not to mention participating in democracy in a way which was previously closed off to them (by voting with their pocket book).

The whole reason for the existence of campaign finance reform is not to let power be concentrated in the hands of the relative few who are rich enough to pay for their very own Congressman. But if someone is raising lots of money because lots of people choose to donate small amounts, that sounds to me like democracy in action.

That brings me to point 4...if Senator Obama is able to raise more money in small donations than Senator McCain...that's a sign of the breadth and depth of his support compared to McCain. Leaving aside (for only a moment) his promise to accept public financing, I find no other moral or democratic reason why he should undercut the advantage this support gives him. If more people (as opposed to only a few rich people - say, "Hollywood Liberals" like Sean Penn) support him more passionately, he should have an advantage.

Which brings me back to points 1 and 2. I wish he hadn't made that promise in the first place. If he hadn't, that would clear the way for the perfectly justified move of taking advantage of the popular wellspring of support and riding it to the Oval Office. But the promise makes it something more. (And I guess I'd want to see this "promise." Was it "I'll probably take public financing?" or was it "I promise to take public financing." I really don't know. If it was the former, I find nothing wrong with changing one's mind. The political charge of "flip-flopping" has always struck me as incredibly lame. But let's assume it was the latter.....) To go back on one's word indicates a flaw in character which makes it difficult to trust him.

kennyching said...


I agree with aspects of what you're saying, particularly that Obama has raised his money in a new way, and that may bode well for the future of politics.

However, he said on several occasions that he would use public financing for his presidential campaign (not maybe he would). He probably said this before he realized just how well his new kind of fundraising was going to work. And you're only principled if you keep your word when it hurts you.

He may have some good reasons for breaking his word; but, then again, typical politicians always do.

You're right, too, that it shows his breadth of support. I was one of his supporters; I gave him $$$. And that was based, essentially, on his promise of a new kind of politics. But by breaking this promise he has gravely harmed his image as a new kind of politician in my eyes.

And, it's not as if he's got some really fantastic record from which this is just an atypical deviation. This is typical Obama; lots of faith without deeds. Really, what has he ever done or accomplished?

David Brooks in the NYTimes has a strong column on this whole thing.

Ben said...

Again, what you're saying about his promise-breaking making him untrustworthy is something I agree with.

That said, he actually has made some moves based on principle that could possibly hurt him. (Maybe not, given the strength of his donor base, but nevertheless I got back a little respect for him I lost in my conversation with you.....)

See here:

And here.

So maybe a Halfway New Kind of Politics. This isn't keeping his word about public funding, but it's not nothing.

Oh, and I've been told to tell you that Christy and Mike Mott say "hi."

kennyching said...

I agree that he's not doing nothing. Gettign PACs and 527s out of the picture is good. And I don't think he's just pretending to be idealistic but is in fact deeply cynical.

But, I also think he's not what he says he is. Of course, that's true of most pols, but it just feels worse when you realize it's true about a guy who says he's 'a new kind of politics.'

I think I particularly feel personally galled because for a number of years, I tried to give the Democrats a chance. I left the Republican Party; I loved the West Wing; I tried arguing on the side (to some extent) of my Liberal Christian friends. And Obama was the culmination of my flirtation with the Left. But, now, I just feel jilted.

That's not to say I'm going back to the Right, though I'm not saying I won't either. But, I just feel personally very disappointed.

Btw, Ben, say 'hi' to Christy and Mike for me.