Eleanor Clift: Obama's Unspecified Small Donors Are a 'Citizens' Army'

On the Wednesday edition of NPR’s nationally distributed Diane Rehm Show, Newsweek columnist Eleanor Clift and Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page took turns hailing Barack Obama’s millions of dollars in unspecified small donations as a sign of Obama’s popularity and even his reformist image. Clift said these donors may be molded into a "citizens' army or citizens’ lobbying force." Page called it a "new populism" and even declared: "He has rendered the old post-Watergate campaign finance reform obsolete. Those laws have got to be rewritten, or just done away with."

Rehm began her program on a giddy note: "Americans made history last night electing the country’s first African-American president. Barack Obama appears to have won by the largest percentage of any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson, the first since Jimmy Carter to garner more than 50.1 percent. His message of hope and possibility drew a rainbow-hued legion of voters." She greeted her guests: "Good morning to all of you on this really extraordinary day. Eleanor Clift, talk about the historic nature of the Obama win."

Newsweek columnist Clift said there were lots of impediments to blacks over the years:

There was a lot of focus going into this election day as to whether there would be impediments. I must say, I was looking at these results and it really does seem like a bipartisan, intergenerational cry to take back the government. And I think even his method of fundraising, which was criticized because he bypassed the public financing system, really, though, was a way to reach out to millions of Americans and average donations of under 100 dollars. A lot of people are a part of this and want to be a part of this.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how he keeps the coalition together that he has built. Does he keep them as sort of a citizens’ army or citizens’ lobbying force? Because the task that he has to overcome the partisan bitterness in Washington and tackle these huge problems that have been intractable because neither party wants to give the other side a victory. We end up in stalemate in too many instances. He’s got a huge task ahead.

Clarence Page seconded that emotion:

Eleanor’s right on every single point she just mentioned. I think we have the significance of the new technology of the Internet. Barack Obama has rewritten the rules of fundraising. He has rendered the old post-Watergate campaign finance reform obsolete. Those laws have got to be rewritten, or just done away with, one way or the other. This is a new populism he’s bringing.

Page went on to suggest that Obama will be a reformist president, just as Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago, was a reformist mayor.

The other two guests were Deborah Simmons, editorial page editor of the Washington Times – who began by exclaiming she needed to eat crow because she never thought this country was going to allow a black man named Barack Hussein Obama to win – and David Keene of the American Conservative Union.

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