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George W. Bush's presidency since 2007

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Obama's One Million Donors

By Brent Budowsky
February 26, 2008

Editor’s Note: Behind the scenes, Hillary Clinton's campaign has been disparaging Barack Obama's enthusiastic supporters as "cult-like" and naive, but that derision may be the sounds of a Democratic Establishment frightened by what this democratic surge really means.

As Obama closes in on one million mostly small donors, he is striking at the heart of the old order -- its dominance over political money, the ability to cut off this life blood to wayward politicians and to turn it on for compliant ones. In this guest essay, former Democratic congressional staffer Brent Budowsky discusses the revolutionary potential of the Obama campaign:

Barack Obama will soon announce that his campaign has 1 million unique donors. That night Chris Matthews will make his power number 1,000,000, which will demonstrate the power of average Americans to demand and enforce real change.

If the Democratic nomination is decided on March 4, the period from March through August will be the most democratically empowering in modern political history.

It could become a “democracy summer,” similar to the Freedom Summer and the birth of the Voting Rights Act.

The Obama gang of one million in March will grow to two million by August. It will put to bed the cynicism of those who speak of unity, idealism and participation with sarcasm, derision and negativity. It will bring honor to those who give their time, energy and money to create the true power for lasting change.

One million donors: This gives Democrats the resources to initiate the largest voter-registration project in history.

The year that began with historic turnout in state after state will end with a historic transformation of the electorate itself that will lift Democrats at all levels and inspire independents in all states.

This huge and surging donor base will put a stake in the heart of Swift Boat-style attacks. The first smear attack will be answered by the roar of millions of small donors, producing tens of millions of dollars, to bury the lie in an avalanche of truth.

This democracy summer between March and August could raise more than a hundred million dollars of new money, register a million new voters and finance an unprecedented advertising campaign on the Internet and liberal radio to promote a second wave of new donors, voters and volunteers to get out the vote.

2008 is similar to the Solidarity movement that transformed Poland, which was in part about Lech Walesa but equally about the Solidarity workers and their supporters.

Barack Obama is no saint and his supporters are no cult. 2008 is about a large and growing mass of deeply patriotic Americans who are disgusted by the corruptions of recent years, and determined to realize great aspirations for the country they love, whose leaders have strayed from the values they cherish.

One person donating $20 is insignificant. Millions of Americans donating $20 together is the force that transforms history and the power that defeats the opponents of change.

Democrats should embrace this and build on it. Why don’t Democratic leaders convene a meeting of Democratic venture capitalists and investment bankers to discuss investment in new media and the creation of a progressive version of Fox News? Republicans have done this for decades; why not Democrats?

Why don’t Democrats embrace a “democracy summer” by devoting the first day of the national convention to a USO-style “salute to service” that would not merely tell voters how great Democrats are, but show Americans how much Democrats care?

Why not use the convention to define a new era of American politics by giving voice to those who serve homeless veterans, hard-hit workers, poor Americans and a cleaner environment by bringing together political leaders, citizen activists and superstar entertainers?

Huge turnout, new voters, surging interest, a million donors, a democracy summer, big money in the service of patriotic change. The past is prologue. The future is now.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at [This article was first published by The Hill.]

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