President Barack Obama may have had Van Halen’s Running with the Devil on his mind this week. Capitulating to political realities and hungry for a second term, the President gave reluctant support to a fledgling super political action committee (or “SuperPAC”) known as Priorities USA Action.
Obviously, the President sees no choice if he is to compete with the cash flow and messaging machine generated by Super PACs supporting former House Speaker Newton L. Gingrich and former Massachusetts Governor Willard M. Romney. Rick Santorum, after a good night’s triple play, might enter that mix, too.
On the heels of the one year anniversary of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, Mr. Obama’s actions may seem hypocritical. During his 2011 State of the Union speech, he railed fiercely against the U.S. Supreme Court for its holding that political action committees seed-funded by corporations and labor unions could not be prohibited from raising unlimited amounts of cash nor creating and distributing messages that supported a candidate.
But, it’s much more complicated than that.
The only thing, in my opinion, problematic with the high court’s opinion was that it gave unions a voice and an opportunity to raise some cash. One need go no further than unions to identify one of the root sources of crippling expenses that has dampened not only the ability of American companies to increase revenues and profits, but also the ability to hire labor at manageable costs.
Ironically, both labor and Wall Street were supporters of the President during the 2008 campaign. For Mr. Obama to support a position that would have effectively declawed them was beyond me. Up until earlier this week, his job approval ratings were considered dangerously low. A poor economy for the most part appeared to be doing him in. Mr. Obama would need all the help he could get, yet he was willing to see the court determine that corporations really weren’t people after all.
Hindsight is always twenty-twenty. But, for a campaigner who made full use of the Internet to raise money and stay in touch with his supporters, it is somewhat surprising that he would take rapid changes and increased social media for granted.
For example, Mr. Romney appears to have banners almost everywhere on the Internet. It can be very disturbing to see Willard Romney’s face next to a Godsmack video. Talk about Whiskey Hangover.
Mr. Obama’s displeasure with the infamous Citizens United opinion specifically and use of Super PACs in general stems from a need to satisfy his base of “we hate anything that smells of big business” liberals. Appeasing this base must at times feel like a stone around the neck. Fortunately, the realities of the campaign will allow Mr. Obama to cut that weight loose. Yes: he’ll have to suffer through the accusations of hypocrisy that will be lobbed against him from the right and the left. But: at least he’ll have one other fundraising tool to strike back.
Welcome to the Dark Side, Mr. President. We appreciate the company.