Saturday, June 21, 2008

Flip-flop? Who cares?

I'm not really much into the nuances of campaign financing. It's not very interesting, and whatever limits seem to be imposed are easily bypassed through party money and 527 groups and so forth. I don't really understand the purpose of the check-off box on the 1040 form, but I never check it because it somehow feels wrong.

Now Obama has decided, counter to previous statements, that he will reject public financing. (Three articles from the New York Times sum this up: for a straightforward report on his decision, here; for a summary of financing and how Obama's decision may affect it in the future, see here; for David Brooks's mixed view, see here).

Republicans want to make hay on this, accusing Obama of flip-flopping, of going back on his word. There are two reasons I expect that this is a non-starter. First, few people have any more understanding of this topic than I do - we don't know what's going on and we don't much care.

More importantly, when you look at the headlines, "Obama rejects public financing," the vast majority of the public sees that as a good thing. Since the system has been corrupted by so many quasi-legal influences, that public money, taxpayer money, is used at all seems like a pretty bad practice, especially when there have been so many stories about the money that's being raised. That a candidate would turn down a draw off the public dole has to be positive.

There's also a philosophical problem. Republicans don't believe in big government (so they say), so why would they want the public to have a multi-million dollar hand in paying for political ads and lawn signs and pizza for volunteers? It seems (and I understand that, in actuality, it's more nuanced than this) that Republicans would be the first to applaud any candidate who takes government out of the equation.

I think the McCain campaign needs to move down the road and find a different issue.

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