Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama has hit the nation with a fever that it has not seen in quite some time.  After a grueling fight in the primaries with Senator Hillary Clinton, he has still managed to come up on top, firmly grasping the Democratic nomination for the election coming up in November.  He’s wooed the media, moderates, and super delegates with charisma, poise, and a strong, optimistic message.  A lot of people around me who I would have never expected to get into politics, much less dedicate time, money and effort to it, have hopped aboard his campaign for the White House.

For the most part, I consider this a good thing; a much needed injection of political will in the apathetic amoeba that is the people of the United States.  Unfortunately, his somewhat ambiguous message of hope and change is very difficult to translate into real action and policy.  Now that he has the presidential nomination, Obama is going to start having to define who he is and where he stands.  It doesn’t look as good as his energy pumped speeches.

Last Thursday Obama said he would refuse public campaigning funds for the general election. This goes in direct opposition to his promise last year to accept them should the republican nominee.  Senator John McCain has already indicated that he would accept public funds.

Public funds for election campaigns are significant in that they are designed to take the blood money out of politics.  By accepting funds, candidates are not allowed to use any other contributions and they have limits as to what they can use from the money pool their party has raised.  Originally Obama vehemently supported the idea of publicly financed elections, and even now does not take money from federal lobbyists and political action committees.  However, by refusing public funds the option is still there for him to do so.

So what changed his rhetoric over the past year?  Well, it has become painfully obvious to Senator Clinton and John McCain, exactly how much fund raising power the name of Obama has.  By rejecting the funds, Obama will have an estimated $100 to $200 million more to work with through private donors.  Additionally, the Democratic National Committee has raised far less than the Republican National Committee, so Obama would have even less money to play with.   Plain and simple, this decision was a cold, economic calculation with no reference to hope, change and truth.

Obviously, there are some logistical problems with this new system of publicly financed elections.  The 527 groups (i.e. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, or the groups that helped to take down McCain in the 2000 primaries) still roam the political jungle unrestrained.  None so far have stepped up to smear Obama yet, but there are fears that will occur.  Historically Obama and McCain have been against these campaigning tactics, but as the general election nears who knows what will happen. 

The idea of public financing was a step into reducing behind the scenes corruption and the purchasing of candidates.  By rejecting these funds, Obama is indicating that maybe, in fact, politics really is business as usual.  It is politicians promising, until it is their advantage to reverse their stance.  It certainly takes away from some of that virgin legitimacy he carried in the primaries, as the candidate with a fresh new vision.

Will it hurt him in the long term?  Will other voters view his actions similarly?  I am not sure, but I for one am disappointed Obama.

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