In an effort to maximize his fundraising potential Barrack Obama has announced that he will finance his campaign entirely with private contributions. While his campaign presented this as a populist move based on his large number of small contributions from individual donors, it was no coincidence that he made the statement while sitting at a roundtable with leaders of Democratic PACs and the president of the AFL-CIO. Despite Obama’s considerable success in raising funds from individuals, it is these money-generating powerhouses which will ultimately bring in the bulk of the millions needed to run his campaign, money taken involuntarily from union workers — many of whom no longer even vote with the Democrats — and consolidated by extreme leftist organizations and wealthy individuals like George Soros working through faceless front groups.
John McCain has a history of believing in an egalitarian approach to political campaigns. He has a laudable yet naive faith in a level playing field and campaigns where ideas speak louder than money. To some degree McCain has staked his reputation as a populist reformer on these ideas, and it is about time for him to admit that he has been misguided. We’ve gone for eight years with a president whose effectiveness has been weakened by his chronic inability to own up to his mistakes. It’s time for McCain to show how different he is and acknowledge the fact that his attempts to level the political playing field, while well intentioned, have been a mistake. A good start would be to admit that his McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill has not worked and did not produce the intended results. The most effective way to show that he understands his past mistakes is to abandon the futile pretense of a federally funded campaign and do as Obama has done and run his campaign on private financing.
Right now, McCain is getting some mileage out of accusations that Obama agreed to a deal where both candidates would use public financing and has now reneged on it, but the short-term benefits of that argument are not going to last. McCain may be concerned that he cannot out-fundraise Obama, but even so he can certainly do better than the $84 million limit on public funding. McCain has vacillated on this issue throughout the election, but now it’s time to throw caution to the winds, declare that the gloves are off and go for all the money he can get from every source that will give it to him. He can now safely reject public funds, and blame the need to do so on Obama’s perfidious actions.
McCain is a Republican and he should take advantage of the traditional strengths of the Republican Party. One of those is the ability to raise a great deal of money from business interests. Yes, that makes him look like he’s working for the lobbyists and the corporate fat-cats, but contrary to the anti-corporate drumbeat of the left and in the media, Republicans and most independents understand that the political activities of the companies which employ them ultimately benefit them as employees, and that those companies and their lobbyists are often a more effective voice for their interests in Washington than any elected representative. McCain should embrace and even celebrate corporate funding and turn it into a positive rather than a negative.
From its inception, the Republican Party has been a party based on the idea of an alliance between those who believe in individual liberty and those who believe that capitalism is the firmest foundation of a free society. The abolition movement which the party grew out of was secretly underwritten by some of the most successful businessmen of the era, and the party has always been devoted to putting prosperity first and the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats. Even the least civic-minded Republican presidents have done less harm to the country and more good just by supporting business interests and economic growth which have brought better conditions and more opportunities for Americans at every level of society. It is because of this devotion to capitalism and prosperity that even the poorest Americans have a standard of living better than the middle classes of most other nations.
Obama deserves some praise for being willing to show us the true face of the Democratic Party. He is making less of an effort than any previous candidate to hide the fact that he is running as a populist and a socialist. He takes pride in endorsing programs which will expand the power and cost of government and do so at the expense of overburdened taxpayers. McCain should be equally honest. He should put aside and repudiate his past mistakes and embrace capitalism, liberty and smaller government. He should endorse the prosperity and opportunity which they will bring for the nation and every citizen. One way to do that is to proudly admit that he is a Republican and that he understands that businesses and political interest groups speak for the stockholders, employees and other constituencies which they represent. He can show that he hears their voice and acknowledges it by taking their money and running to represent their interests — which are the interests of all of us who work and want to prosper in this nation. Even if doing this leaves McCain underfunded relative to Obama it will reassure a lot of voters that he’s serious about winning and knows that the best interests of the people lie with capitalism and the private sector.