Obama is Right on 527s

Krugman believes that in order for change to come, Obama has to maintain a harsh anti-corporation platform. But Obama is pursuing a strategy that is a whole lot wiser and more effective.
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Over the past month, Barack Obama has been consistently rising in the polls. The most recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll had him on top with 33% of the vote - 4 points above the second candidate - and the most recent Boston Globe poll has Barack Obama ahead in New Hampshire with 30% of the vote as well. Finally, the most recent CBS poll has him leading in South Carolina for this first time during this campaign with 35%.

These numbers are making the establishment nervous, and that is leading a whole lot of empty attacks against Obama. One set of attacks have been offered by the NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman. In two recent columns, he slams Obama for refraining from demonizing those who disagree with him and on his opposition to 527 political - and often smearing - ads.

Krugman believes that in order for change to come, Obama has to maintain a harsh anti-corporation and anti-Republican platform. But what Krugman fails to recognize is that Obama is pursuing a strategy that is a whole lot wiser and more effective. Instead of demonizing the other side as Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and other conventional politicians do, Obama has effectively brought moderates from the other side to his side time and again for over 10 years to push for improving funding for public schools, strengthening transparency, setting up the "Google For Government" to publish where the federal money goes and bringing about two great ethics reforms in both the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Senate.

By focusing on the facts and problems, Obama has effectively changed the rules of debate and neutralized attacks by Republicans who would love for him to resort to politics of demonization and vilification that have repeatedly failed. Edwards and Clinton think that the candidate with the harshest rhetoric is the best candidate to bring about change. But the fact of the matter is that while these candidates have talked about change, Obama has delivered on that promise of change by forcing the republicans to talk issues and defeating them based on merits.

And as for 527s, Krugman is upset about Obama's position against them because Krugman essentially believes that 527s are okay as long as they come from the left. But if they represent corporations, they must be abolished. This is, of course, a fundamentally hypocritical position to take. How can we legitimately do away with 527s and claim the moral high ground if we are to allow certain 527s to get a free pass? Isn't this double standard mentality why we have repeatedly been unable to get independents to our side on issues? Isn't this a perfect example of the kind of divisive methodology that has repeatedly failed us and kept this country divided?

Maybe Paul Krugman doesn't believe this is hypocritical at all just as he didn't think it was hypocritical when at the same time that he was issuing such rhetoric against corporations, he was serving on the advisory board of Enron for $50,000 a year before he was forced by New York Times to resign from his board position due to conflict of interest.

The problem with 527s is not that they represent corporations. What makes 527s undemocratic is that unlike candidate committees and political action committees, 527s are not regulated by Federal Election Commission or a state election commission and are not subject to the same contribution limits as PACs. Now one may think that as long as they represent unions, we shouldn't care who is funding them. But because of a lack of transparency, a major corporation can simply create an artificial organization that would then claim to represent a certain group of workers and produce an ad that would attack the candidate that has in fact been the strongest in defending workers. And of course people see the ad and think that because it looks like a workers' group, it must be right. If we are to open that door, to embrace certain 527s while demonize others, who is going to decide which 527s are acceptable? How can we tell which ones' positions are truly progressive? We obviously have no way of doing that.

Paul Krugman thinks that the reason why Democrats should continue to support 527s is that Republicans are and they will use 527s against whoever will be our nominee. But keep something in mind. When 527s are allowed to function, they disproportionately help Republicans over Democrats because most of them are funded by the power elite, which often come down on the side of Republicans. But the Democratic nominee can effectively neutralize the impact of 527s by distancing himself from them from the beginning and asking the Republican nominee to similarly condemn them. He can even challenge the republican nominee to support the idea of pushing for legislation to curtail the power of 527s. But just as someone who voted for the war can't effectively make a case for bringing our troops home now, if Obama supports 527s now, he will be in no position to rally against Republican 527s after he wins the nomination without being called a "flip-flop" or accused of being "for them before he was against them."

Krugman's approach to this election represents the kind of strategy that has repeatedly failed the Democrats. This is the idea that we can maneuver around and play the game of partisan politics and simultaneously maintain a credible position against partisanship. There is one cold fact that Democrats have to accept: if we are to effectively see our policy ideals realized and lobbyists abolished, we have to maintain those positions across the board instead of playing the game when it's to our benefit -- as John Edwards and Krugman want to do in case of 527s -- and still think that we can be credible when claiming that the system is corrupt.

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