Especially in a year in which the most critical factor in selecting a candidate is electability, it seems unlikely that the ability to raise money would disqualify a Democrat. (Until campaign-finance rules change, are Democrats really going to allow wealthy people to give only to Republicans?) Impugning a possible nominee with a very progressive record on unions, the environment or anything else on the grounds that he or she is secretly planning to double-cross the voters seems, as arguments go, a rather weak one. Judging from Warren’s attack on Buttigieg for his fundraising in wine caves, preening about fundraising seems to be a rather ineffective tactic with primary voters.
Beyond that, Democrats should be loath to demonize those who accept money from millionaires and billionaires who might be key to keeping their own campaigns afloat in the general election. Are they really going to turn away donations from, say, Tom Steyer or Mike Bloomberg (or Bernie Sanders, for that matter), who have vowed to support whomever the nominee might be? If, for example, Oprah Winfrey wants to spend $10 million helping elect Democrats, they will not, I assume, turn up their noses at the largesse from a progressive celebrity.
There are more effective and important arguments to have as the Democrats select their nominee. The issues that should concern voters about Bloomberg, for example, should be his record on stop-and-frisk and his refusal to release former female employees from nondisclosure agreements. These are things that might dampen enthusiasm among voters whose turnout will be critical to Democrats’ victory in November.
If one is concerned about the corrupting influence of money in politics, Buttigieg’s and Biden’s attendance at fundraisers in New York or California surely cannot be the central issue. Rather, they and all candidates should be telling us what finance system they would prefer and how they plan on “reversing” Citizens United (which doesn’t have anything to do with millionaires spending their own money).
Candidates’ records, past statements and potential weakness in the general election (e.g. lacks experience, does not excite the base, is too extreme to win an electoral majority) are entirely fair game. Airing those issues now is essential to vetting the candidates and determining the Democrats’ strongest challenger to President Trump. However, fussing over the propriety of taking money from millionaires — when Trump is hosting events for donors who gave him a minimum of $580,600 per couple — strikes me as naive and counterproductive. As someone who views Trump as a mortal threat to our democracy, I sure hope Democrats do not select a nominee who is going to allow himself or herself to be wildly outspent in November.