…to talk of many things. Of votes and polls and campaign funds, of presidents and kings. And why public finance is bad (and good) and whether Dean has wings.
Those who're following the Dean campaign can be forgiven if they've got that through-the-looking glass feeling all of a sudden. See, despite his unfortunate support for campaign finance "reform," Dean's realized that he's going to have to ditch public funding (and the spending caps that come with it) to compete with the cash-flush president, who's already announced his intention to do so. But he was afraid of taking flak (which he has) from fellow Democrats.
So last week, Dean asked his supporters to "decide" what he should do. A letter to supporters posed the question less than totally impartially: "If we accept federal matching funds -- and the $45 million spending cap that goes with it -- they will have a $155 million spending advantage against us. From March through August, they will be able to define and distort us, and we will have no way to defend ourselves. "
The recipients got the picture and provided a thin layer of political cover by voting as instructed. Fine, whatever, business as usual. The really ballsy move, though, was the email campaign manager Joe Trippi—subject of a good profile (subscribers) in the latest New Republic—sent around this weekend. It read:
In 1773, a band of patriots dumped a shipload of tea into Boston Harbor to protest a government that benefited only a select few.
Today, a bigger band of patriots made history. By a margin of 85-15, you voted to dump $19 million in public campaign funds, and you sent a message loud and clear to George W. Bush?our political process belongs to the American people, not the special interests that fund his administration.
This campaign is no longer public-funded?it?s people funded.
To quote Shakespeare… jigga-wha? I mean, I'm all in favor of this line of argument—seems eminently reasonable that support for a candidate should come from those who believe in his or her ideas strongly enough to contribute voluntarily. But it's a bit awkward for their campaign to now be making this argument, unless they expect their supporters to be sufficiently adept at doublethink to accept that the principle somehow ceases to apply when the "people" funding a campaign rise above a certain tax bracket. Still, that's not quite as bizarre as the contention that somehow eschewing public funding in favor of private contributions somehow constitutes thumbing one's nose at the "special interests". It's going to be the same bloody companies giving comparable amounts to the Dean campaign if he gets the D nod. The only way this strategy works is if they do just that, making up the $19 million the campaign just passed on. So… err… who, exactly, do they think they're kidding with this line?