Frankly, I am glad that the Democrats have finally gotten over their
nearly four decades long obsession with campaign financing reform. I
always thought that it was not a matter of money corrupting candidates
but of money going primarily to Republicans. Democrats do have a
penchant for self-righteousness. I hope it is finished, at least on
Even so, the Democrats didn't do at all badly, what with those 527s and other independent vehicles that were engaged in the campaign, although independent of the party. Both Al Gore and John Kerry collected less money than their Republican opponents. But the margins were not enormous.
Still, Barack Obama has caused a revolution in presidential fund-raising. As the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times pointed out in Monday's editions, Obama raised $150 million, with 633,000 contributors giving an average of $86 each to his campaign during the month of September. Or a total of $600 million up to October 1.
You have to have some pity for John McCain who stood by his commitment to the federal law he had sponsored and which allowed only so much fundraising (and spending) if the candidate decided to take matching funds from the government. I supposed you could say that this was a principled decision. I suspect, however, that it was a prudential one. McCain realized he had not and could not energize even his supporters to give what they usually did in other elections.
Campaign financing records will not be filed with the government commission that oversees these matters until Friday. So I am hazarding a small guess about what you can read from the information we already have from the Obama effort. But here is one fact that is self-evident:Democrats and liberal Democrats, at that, are not poorer than Republicans and conservatives. They can not only give and raise enormous sums. But those of them who are wealthy are quite willing, even enthusiastic, to contribute to a candidate whose success will mean an increase in their taxes. Nobody particularly likes paying taxes. But, as Warren Buffett said, he should not be paying a lesser percentage of his income in tax than his secretary does. I shouldn't either, and neither should you.
Does this willingness make Democrats more patriotic than Republicans? No. Does it make them masochistic? No. But it is a perfectly sentient response to a national predicament that has arisen from selfishness run rampant and enshrined in both law and culture. So let's just agree that it is a concrete expression of Matthew Arnold's ethical injunction to "choose equality and flee greed."