During my visit to Los Angeles I found myself talking politics over an outdoor dinner of homemade pizza and wine – that we ate homemade pizza is irrelevant to anything other than my desire to tell the world that I am finally learning how to cook and did, indeed, make pizza dough from scratch. With only three people in this dinner conversation, I quickly found myself on the minority team, apparently the only girl of us friends to have never, not even once, donated to the Obama campaign.
Not wanting to be mistaken for a Romney fan, I rushed to express my intentions to vote for Obama in November, and ended up blurting out that I don’t believe in donating to political campaigns. I honestly am not sure why I said this. So maybe it was the quickest justification to come to mind, but do I really not believe in political gifts?
The last time I was asked to donate to a campaign was in March, when my roommate at the time was interning for the Obama campaign’s New York finance office. She offered me a ticket to a campaign event for a $30 donation. I promptly said “no thank you,” thinking that my vote should be enough to speak for myself.
This anti-political-giving sentiment didn’t even stem from my disgust with the Super PAC’s and disappointment with billionaire Sheldon Adelson, as one might expect. It stemmed more from my concern that money should not win elections. Aren’t government elections, after all, about values, speeches, and votes? Why, I wondered, did Obama need my money?
It wasn’t until the other night when, during this friendly political chit-chat, one friend said, “I would just feel bad if come November, Obama loses, and I look back and see that I never did anything to help him win.” This actually struck a chord with me. Obviously if this girl votes for Obama, she will have done something to help his campaign- something major, in fact. But it is clear these days that giving a vote may not be giving enough. Getting the votes of the American public has become a full-time profession in itself, requiring the President to unfortunately spend too much time focusing on re-election and not enough time focusing on governing. The President spends hours upon hours chatting-up donors in the hopes of securing major gifts that can propel him to a 2012 victory.
Is it disappointing that my vote is not enough? Yes. Does this mean that I plan on giving to the Obama campaign now? No. I know Obama needs more money. He needs big, big time money. Regardless of the fact that my small $10 donation would make little difference to his campaign, I still do not want to participate in a system that requires wealth to win governance. I like it that the Democratic party has had a harder time raising campaign money. I think this struggle to keep up in the money games is representative of the demographic makeup of the Democratic party. We are a party that represents the middle class. We represent the people who do not buy success, but earn it through work.
If come November 7 Romney is our incoming president, I might be changing my tune. But thank goodness it’s only September, so I can keep wearing my idealistic, naïve hat for just a little bit longer.