a dose of skepticism regarding an Obama presidency

There’s no such thing as miracles in politics.

And the warping effects of power should never be underestimated. Hence, this rule of thumb:
People who want power should not be trusted with power.
So as much as Obama really does embody an irrepressible optimism and hunger for something better, there are details of his campaign that indicate that for all the inspiration, Obama is an establishment candidate. Fundraising, for example.

Estimates for the cost of this election campaign from the Center for Responsive Politics defy imagination:
…more than $5.3 billion will go toward financing the federal contests upcoming on Nov. 4.

The presidential race alone will cost nearly $2.4 billion, the Center predicts. Already the candidates alone have raised more than $1.5 billion since the election cycle's start in January 2007. This is the first time that candidates for the White House have raised and spent more than $1 billion, and this year's total is on track to nearly double candidate fundraising in 2004 and triple 2000.

Weeks before Election Day, the 2008 cycle has already surpassed $4.5 billion, $300 million more than the $4.2 billion that had been raised by the conclusion of the 2004 cycle. The overall estimated cost of the 2008 election would represent a 27 percent increase over the 2004 cycle.
5 point 3. Billion. Dollars. In other words: that’s a lot of bloody zeros. For an election.

If ever there was proof that American democracy is elitist and plutocratic, there it is. As the Center for Responsive Politics Sheila Krumholz says, "You can't win a seat in Congress without being personally wealthy or knowing a lot of wealthy people who are willing to back you with their money."

The winners of all of this are, of course, the Powers That Be (and the Powers That Wannabe) and, Amy Goodman points out, the corporate media:
The $2-billion presidential race also guarantees vast profits for the broadcasters, the national networks and the local television stations. Hundreds of television stations are using the public airwaves, imposing themselves between the candidates and the public.
McCain’s complaint that Obama reneged on his agreement to use public financing doesn’t seem quite so crotchety. Catch-22: Obama has the ability to draw in large donations, thereby eliminating Republicans’ past financial advantage and win the spin wars. But the principle of inclusive, accessible elections not beholden to big-time contributors gets lost in the process. (Goodman points out how “A Washington Post analysis of Federal Election Commission data shows, though, that only a quarter of this [Obama’s] vast number of donors fall into the "small" category (under $200), which is a smaller percentage than that achieved by George Bush in his 2004 run.) The choice is: win by compromise or lose with integrity.

So no, there is no such thing as miracles in politics. Not unless there are fundamental philosophical and structural changes to “the system.” Obama is transformational in the sense of changing the nature of the national conversation, of bringing empathy, intelligence, and cooperation to the political stage. But I remain skeptical that the substantive, deep-down-in-the-sould transformation the US – the world, in fact – needs is something he can accomplish. It’s one thing to temper idealism with pragmatism, but there’s an undercurrent of realpolitiks in Obama’s campaign. Don’t get me wrong; Obama is, hands down, a better choice than Bush III, but unconditional faith in our “leaders” is what got this country into a mess in the first place.

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