If Donald Trump can’t kill the discredited cause of campaign finance reform, nothing will.
Because the view of reformers – including those pushing reforms and an advisory ballot measure in California – adds up to this: they think a candidate like Donald Trump should be receiving tax dollars to fund his campaign.
Trump fits the description of the candidate that reformers want to help, and that public financing would assist. A person from outside the political process, who is opposed by most traditional lobbies and parties. Trump can’t raise money from the usual folks, and he either can’t help himself (or isn’t nearly as rich as he claims or won’t). The reformers want such candidates to have the aid of a public financing system.
Of course, they’ll protest that this is unfair. And that Trump’s lying and bigotry—which are at the core of his candidacy – make him just one bad example and that lots of good people would be helped by public finance.
That’s nonsense. In places with public finance, it’s precisely Trump-style candidates of the left and right – extremists and bigots – who have benefited. Specifically, the people whose views can’t get financial support from mainstream donors of both parties.
In this way, Trump reveals the poverty of the finance reformers. Having to raise money is a good thing, a force for moderation. It means that candidates have to talk to other people, instead of just communicating through social media. And it means they have to convince institutions, like businesses and labor unions, that they are competent and worthy of trusting with power.
Yes, politicians have to spend too much time fundraising and with donors. But the cure for that is to raise or unwind campaign finance regulation that limit donation amounts and restrict how parties can raise and move money around. Make it easier for politicians to raise money and make it easier for parties to get money to candidates, and you would make it harder for Trumps.
If you want to make it easier for Trumps –and other candidates who traffic in hatred and extremes – then, by all means, support public financing and Common Cause and other additional regulations on campaign finance.