The near-extinct pander-bear

Bendinelli, Ryan

I am all for conservation. I think that we need to save energy; I believe in preserving land; I think that endangered species should be protected. However, if there is one species that I would be happy to see fade away, it is the “pander bears.” This species thrives in its natural habitat of Washington D.C. Following the normal Darwinist path, they will say whatever it takes to survive. The less feasible their election seems, the harder they fight for their lifeblood: attention. These candidates push reason out of politics and refocus the lens on ideology.

In the case of presidential candidates, John Edwards is the leader of the pack among the panders. According to the latest Rasmussen poll, Edwards is sitting at a healthy 22 percent behind frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Thus, Edwards is looking to make up some ground by playing as well as possible to the Democratic party’s fringe.

Edwards’ suggestion for a better environment is for Americans to give up their SUVs. With all of the available research, it is reasonable to say that fewer carbon emissions will not hurt the planet. However, Edwards once again proves how little he thinks about a greater picture.

A critic of free trade, Edwards claims to support American manufacturers. While foreign automakers have seen an increased market share, American automobile companies continue to see SUVs as some of their best sellers. The environmental effects of SUVs may be dangerous, but it is up to the consumer to decide whether the loss of jobs is worth it. For someone who cares about America’s working class, Edwards may want to rethink his statement.

Edwards’ willingness to run whichever way the wind blows is one of the biggest problems with American, and arguably all, politics. When MoveOn.org comes out against Fox News, Edwards is willing to put his 34 appearances on the network behind him and pull out of the debate on the network. The president announces a new strategy in Iraq, and the Daily Kos will make sure that all of the Democrats are against it.

This trend is in no way limited to Democrats. Perhaps the greatest example of it occurring on the Republican side came this past summer as George W. Bush and a group of senators unveiled a comprehensive immigration strategy. Immediately, Rush Limbaugh and countless conservative pundits sought to label the legislation as “amnesty.” John McCain’s support of this bill led to his downfall as a candidate. When candidates Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney had the opportunity to fall in the good graces of the talk radio giant, they jumped at the chance.

To focus on Giuliani for a moment, none of his provisions for “good” immigration reform were left out of the bill. However, that did not matter. Giuliani just needed to be on the same side as the party’s fringe to remain a frontrunner.

As the seemingly endless leadup to the primaries continues, it is inevitable that the pandering will continue. Unfortunately, the rush to the center of the spectrum that traditionally occurred may be a thing of the past. Bush’s legacy as president may end up being his strategy of appealing to a base of voters.

The concept of seeking independent voters may not be seen in the 21st century. Barack Obama, the “rock star” of American politics, has aimed sharp rhetoric at the Washington establishment. He has even expressed hope in working with conservative leaders such as Senator Tom Coburn.

Still, Obama has not managed to gain ground on Hillary Clinton.

We, as voters, are in many ways the ones at fault. We expect our politicians to agree with us on everything, or we are not willing to consider them. Joe Lieberman was driven out of the Democratic party for supporting the war in Iraq. He managed to win reelection by appealing to the Republicans in his state, who saw him as preferable to Ned Lamont. This is not to say that democracy should come to a standstill, or that we should not vote what we believe. However, we must consider leaders’ decision-making ability alongside their ideologies. The star of the week goes to Representative Brian Baird (D-Wash.), for refusing to be a pander bear. Baird has been against the war in Iraq since the beginning. However, after his most recent visit, he has decided the president’s troop surge strategy may be seeing some success. Baird knew this would not sit well with his base of voters, yet he chose to do what he was elected to do: lead.

Ryan Bendinelli is a senior political science and communication major from Millington, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]