Hey, remember that day in the ’08 campaign when Barack Obama turned around and announced that he’d decided, after much reflection (oh, of course) that he would renounce public funding for his campaign, and go it alone?

Captain Hope, as you’ll recall, had promised early on that he’d take public funds, but then came the change bit — there was so much of it coming, he changed his mind.

Public funding, Obama had said, was a vital piece of campaign reform, goddamit, and nothing was more important than limiting the ability of a free people to support the candidate they like … I’m sorry, to ensure a level playing field for all interests.

I think it was about that point that Team ‘Bama saw it was heading north of a cool two hundred million. And suddenly, well lookee, it became vital for ordinary folks to be able to take part in the political process by parting with their cash.

Public funding would have limited the Dems to an $80 million spend, which doesn’t buy a lot of prime-time, soft-focus movies about The One. So they went long, outspending the GOP 2.2:1. Which by a ‘mazin’ coincidence was the victory margin in the electoral college. Power to the people.

The Republicans hollered about hypocrisy ‘n’ all. Me, I couldn’t get excited. We got played and when you’re played there’s only one man to blame. Besides, goes around comes around.

And cometh around it has, with the GOP sitting on a war chest of a cool $5 billion — that’s billion — to fight the good fight on the first Tuesday of next month. Meanwhile, Captain Fabulous has suffered a grievous reversal in his ability to strike water from the rocks.

Seems people won’t stump up no way, no how, least of all in the mid-terms. Why? For the same reason they won’t stump up for those other liberal heroes, Woody Allen and Oliver Stone. Plain fact is, it’s a long time since any of them were good, and, shhhhhhh, people notice.

So why’s there all this money all of a sudden for the GOP? A thing called Citizens United vs FCC, a Supreme’s decision of early this year, which recognises the right of corporations to make contributions to political campaigning (though not to candidates, directly) right up to election day.

The decision overturned part of the McCain-Feingold Act, which put a ban on corporate contributions from 30 days before the poll. It recognised that, to paraphrase Justice Scalia, waddaya know, people who want to speak freely sometimes associate, and sometimes those associations are corporations.

So now all of a sudden the Democrats have got real interested in public funding again. No surprise there. They loaded the country with debt to pay off Wall Street, and left Main Street to refresh itself from the drops trickling down. I don’t think government should support Wall Street or Main Street, but if I’d mailed ‘Bama my last 20 from the trailer park, I’d want something to show.

Besides, the Democrats have plenty of billionaires on their side — the West Coast is bumper-to-bumper with limousine liberals. But they’re more your cure-malaria types, not your take back Washington crowd. Liberals whine about the power of the rich, but Bill Gates and Paul Allen could kill our side dead with the change down the back of the couch.

So you gotta ask — if the poor won’t support you and the rich won’t support you, who will? Ahhhhh, the government. Please no one and everyone has to pay for you.

Progressivism in the half-shell.

Peter Fray

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