Friday, June 20, 2008

How Could You, Barack?!

Apparently we are all supposed to be shocked and appalled by Barack Obama's decision to renounce public campaign financing.

Obama is, the pundits say, selling out his principles for political advantage, proving what a shameless pragmatist huckster he is.

Now, it's probable that Barack Obama is a shamelessly pragmatic huckster. The other word for that is "politician." Everyone who thinks Barack Obama is the magical "change" fairy who is going to swoop into Washington, turn all the lobbyists to pillars of salt and make Congress swoon like preteens at a Hannah Montana concert needs a reality check. The guy is a brilliant political operator. He's not a saint, and he's definitely not Santa Claus.

That said, I don't see what the big deal is about the public financing opt-out. The New York Times called it the "death knell" of campaign finance reform, which would make perfect sense, if campaign finance reform wasn't already a moth-eaten corpse.

As you may or may not be sick of hearing by now, no candidate has opted out of public financing since 1976. During which time, obviously, big money donors and corporations have had absolutely no influence on politics. How could they, when our candidates were plugged into this glorious public financing system, which Obama has thrown so savagely under the bus?

I find it hard to get too upset about a candidate opting out of a system that has done exactly jack shit for over three decades. I also find it incredibly hard to swallow that John McCain wouldn't also opt out if anyone actually wanted to give him any money. McCain, as you might recall, has already pulled a rather shady maneuver with regards to public financing.

Maybe it's time to find a way to restrict the rampant and unrepentant bribery that defines our system in some way besides giving the candidates money and telling them to play nice. Public financing is the "carrot" approach to campaign finance reform. Let's find a damn stick.

Until then, let's not pretend that adherence to a 32-year-old system makes you a "reformer." And let's not pretend rejecting it makes you a snake.

Running for President does that.

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