Saturday, June 21, 2008
Obama Chooses Expediency Over Principle over Funding
Everyone who follows current politics knows that the low level of public trust in modern democracies- from Toledo Ohio to Skibereen, County Cork- has led to a yearning for politicians who mean what they say, who have principles and who adhere to them come what may. This is why Barrack Obama was greeted with such relief in the Democratic primaries: 'at last we have an honest and straight-talking candidate'. And he's charismatic too. But is he that straight-talking? Most students of politics also knows that a moment comes when politicians who offer principles of the driven snow, encounter the choice of retaining such purity and sustaining a reverse or breaching them to maintain or achieve an advantage.
Such a moment has arrived for Obama. Last year he agreed to be bound accept federal campaign funding for the presidential election of $85m provided McCain did the same. Such a move would help restrict the role of really big money in US politics and most on the left agreed with the deal. McCain went along with it.
The alternative was to eschew public funding and opt to raise it all himself. Maybe his staff were unaware of how much their man could raise:$250m during ther primaries and potentially twice that for the main context in November. We don't know how long the Senator for Illinois hesitated but he opted for the latter course and has sustained a fair bit of criticism from both left and right.
Does this mean existing supporters should tear up their campaign literature and decide to abstain? I don't think so. Politics is indeed a tough world of choices between 'bad' and 'even worse'. Ideally Obama should have been true to his pledge and his renunciation of it will damage him. But to lose that available funding would place him at the mercy of a Republican machine which has always called the money shots. Moreover, the most damaging attacks in US elections are often made by 'independent' groups- in reality clandestinely attached to the parties- which raise money and issue attack ads such as the 'Swiftboats Campaign' in 2004 which did much to destroy John Kerry's reputation as a war hero.
Similar campaigns are probably already being planned by Republican supporters and by those with a racist agenda. To counter such attacks Obama needs a big war chest; he therfore needed to opt for private funding and overthrow his earlier pledge. Sometimes expedience offers a better hope for fulfilling those wider ranging principles which can only be fulfileld by winning office, and the bullet, unfortunately, has to be bitten. One is tempted to say to Mr Obama: 'Welcome to the unwholesome world of 'real' politics'.