Getting Down and Dirty

I was at a dinner party a couple months ago where the conversation turned toward politics. One guy there, an economist (yeah, it was a really swingin’ party), was a Dean supporter who thought that his guy had a key advantage: once nominated, he could turn to his base and say “OK, Bush has $200 million. We can’t match that with big money donations. But if one million people can donate $200, we’re there.”

If Kerry’s smart he’ll go for a similar approach, though he won’t have as easy a time as Dean would in generating that much grassroots support. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t try, though. He could get somewhere with people like me. For the first time in either of our lives, Suanna and I are thinking about donating money to a political campaign. This has nothing to do with Kerry, of course, and everything to do with replacing the current Administration. In the past I’d always thought of donating to a political campaign as a seedy sort of thing to do — if you have the money to spend, wouldn’t it be better spent on a well-run charity? At least that way you know your money is going to have some sort of material effect on a cause you care about. A political donation only increases the _odds_ that your candidate will win. And when you consider the possibility that that candidate, once in office, won’t be able to accomplish everything he or she promises, it’s a double risk.

So it’s kind of like backgammon. Most times it’s a very bad idea to slot a checker that’s under threat by two of your opponent’s checkers, because odds are that one of them will hit you on the next roll. But if by slotting you’re allowing yourself to make a prime or close out your board on the next roll, it may well be worth it. Backgammon strategy is all about balancing risk and reward. So are campaign donations.

This time around, negotiating that balance is a no-brainer. The election will be close enough that a donation isn’t a guaranteed loss. And the benefit if the gamble pays off is high. Even if Kerry fails to do what he hopes to do — if he’s constantly blocked by Congress and ends up being a do-nothing President — he’s preferable to Bush, whose Administration’s actions are actively _hurting_ our prosperity and security.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden has “plenty of links”: for donating money. My own risk-reward outlook stops short of wanting to support the DNC monetarily, as he advocates. Your mileage may vary.