The billionaires and the many, many others fueling the anti-Bush coffers in 2004 believed that the 43rd president had lied America into an unjustified and probably unwinnable war. I didn't agree, but, hey, it's a free country -- and people should be free to try to elect the candidate of their choice.
In 2008, Barack Obama raised a lot of "hope" money and, since it looked like a Democratic year, a lot of smart money. But angry money from Bush-haters helped propel his total take to record levels.
This year, there's no doubt that the billionaires and the many, many others contributing to the Romney campaign and pro-Romney super PACs are angry about the Obama Democrats' policies and believe they will be harmful to the nation.
In sum, angry money seems to be trumping smart money in American politics these days.
Which leads one to wonder whether the increasingly Sisyphean project of restricting campaign contributions is worth pursuing any longer.
The Supreme Court in Citizens United and other cases seems to be edging toward a reversal of Buckley v. Valeo. There may be five votes in favor of giving political speech the same First Amendment treatment as student armbands, nude dancing and flag burning.
That would just restore the priorities of the Framers, who were sure interested in protecting political speech much more than these other things.
American voter turnout has been rising, and so has Americans' willingness to contribute money to political causes they think important. These are not negative trends, though incumbents targeted in attack ads tend to think so.
The apparent Republican edge in spending this year, like the Democratic edge in 2004, was evidence of widespread and heartfelt opposition to an incumbent president. It's a sign of civic health, not sickness.