I had mixed emotions about Barack Obama’s choice not to accept public financing of campaigns. On the one hand, as an advocate of free speech, I believe that public financing and campaign spending limits are a threat to free speech precisely where it needs to be most free. But on the other hand, I dislike flip-flops, and this was.
What I would have liked to have heard was Obama or his spokesman tell us that, having seen how individuals, when fired up, can produce the necessary campaign cash, he had realized just how important freedom was in a political campaign, and thus changed his position. I don’t regard changing your mind for good, publicly stated reasons to be a bad flip-flop. Doing so for political expediency is another matter.
But I do welcome the fact that Obama’s campaign has underlined already existing questions about public financing. CQPolitics has an article on the $150 million Obama raised in September:
Obama had initially promised to accept public financing if McCain did, but changed his mind after setting primary fundraising records. His extraordinary fundraising is bound to set a new standard in politics that could doom the taxpayer-paid system. Many Republicans have begun to second-guess McCain’s decision to participate in the program.
In a way it’s nice to see this campaign highlight the problems with public financing, an issue on which I believe both candidates are wrong.