Another Perspective

Obama Living Large

Blowing off the goo-goos.

By 6.23.08

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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Senator Barack Obama, showing a steely resolve and harder-than-imagined edge, bit the bullet and abandoned the measly $85 million of federal campaign dollars for the general election campaign. Heck, he will raise more than that amount in a month, this month in fact.

Obama will, no doubt, be kicked around by Senator McCain and a lot of good government ("goo-goo") types because he decided to go into the private money markets of a sort, one dominated by small donors and not Wall Streeters, to raise unprecedented amounts of cash. Rather than taking Caesar's coin and restricting himself to the paltry sums deemed morally acceptable by enlightened people or goo-goos, he is going to embrace his inner blogger and stick with those faithful Internet contributors for the duration of the general election campaign.

As the Great Reformer of American campaign finance, Arizona Senator John McCain is about to be hoisted on a petard of his own making.

Obama will be lambasted for supposedly violating an earlier pledge to work out some kind of agreement with McCain to come up with a fine-tuned, optimal, perfectly calibrated amount of campaign money to be spent by each side, presumably within the speech-rationing framework of the federal campaign law.

Fogettaboutit. He changed his mind.

For all his gauzy talk of change and caring and bringing the country together, Illinois Senator Barack Obama appears to be made of pretty tough fiber. Blowing off conventional liberal thinking, enduring charges of hypocrisy and flip-flopping, and playing to his remarkable strength in base-of-the-pyramid, online marketing and organization, he is ignoring left-leaning campaign reform advocates and editorial writers whom, he calculates, will eventually come around to his side. He is going for the gold.

What about GOP attacks on Obama's campaign spending? Seriously, who is going to listen to Republicans complain about Big Money in this or any other campaign? Other than Senator McCain, who declined federal money in the primary campaign, not many Pachyderms could bring themselves to launch such a Jacobinical attack, at least with a straight face anyway. Besides, with McCain's campaign awash in lobbyists, he would be subject to pretty effective push-back, given the lobbyist-free fundraising capabilities of the Obama campaign. And the Republican National Committee is doing very nicely, thank you, with traditional fundraising, beating the Democratic National Committee in the traditional game of political fundraising.

In truth, Obama may want to just steer clear of the big-money Clintonistas coming on board, just to preserve his independence. But there is little chance of that happening either. Campaign finance is just not a big issue for the American people now or ever. The economy, the war, oil prices and health care dwarf the quibbling over how many millions of dollars should be spent on campaign advertising versus that which is spent on cars, soap, cell phones or beer. You decide.

Through his electronic grassroots fundraising, Obama has changed the rules of the game and inoculated himself from the charge that his fundraising success is anything other than a quintessentially democratic, qua egalitarian, phenomenon which engages more citizens in the political process than any number of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Pioneer, Wall Street, and K Street fundraising events combined. Power to the people, bro!

Senator Obama seems to have taken to heart Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous words about a foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds. He is living large in the green fields of Internet fundraising.

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About the Author

G. Tracy Mehan III served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the administrations of both Presidents Bush. He is a consultant in Arlington, Virginia, and an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law.