Monday, July 9, 2007

That's Pandertainment!

Friday night was a rare occasion with no presidential candidate appearances within 20 miles of my apartment. Since C-Span was showing “Road to the White House,” I decided to settle for watching them on TV. There were two democratic candidates talking to two very specific groups. I popped some corn, propped my feet up, and settled in to watch the PanderFest.

First up was John Edwards speaking to the United Steelworkers. Nobody can pander like this guy. There’s applause after nearly every sentence. He tells all about how, as president wants to raise the minimum wage and fight for the working man. He delivers the story he loves to tell... He didn't read about the working class in a book, he lived it. His dad worked in the mills, he worked in the mills himself, and he’ll do everything that they want to hear if they elect one of their own for president. The crowd loves him.

Next up, Joe Biden speaks to the gay community. I'm especially interested because it was filmed in Iowa City, and because I know that none of the candidates except Kucinich will go on record supporting gay marriage. Is Biden going to set himself apart from the rest? I'm excited to find out. Biden's going to have to bring out the big guns to beat Edwards in the pandering contest. I then wonder if Biden will go the “I’m one of you” route like Edwards. It would make for a much more interesting story.

So, I watch Biden and he's out of the running for the pandering crown. He mentions support for civil unions, but focuses on general issues rather than crowd-specific issues. Doesn't this guy know how to pander? Obviously not. At the end of the show, a young man asks him point blank, if he's president, will gay marriage being legal in five years? Biden puts his hand on the guy's shoulder, looks him in the eye and says, "No, and I'll tell you why." and goes on about how he’s going to remove any legal distinction at all between heterosexual and homosexual couples. That everyone is treated equally in the eyes of the law. But he doesn’t foresee being able to overcome the religious and political resistance to the word “marriage.”

At first, I thought “Wow. This guy sucks at pandering!” And then, I realized that this shows a flaw in our whole system. Edwards can’t single-handedly raise the minimum wage any more than Biden can legalize gay marriage. Currently, Biden is below the other candidates in the polls and in fundraising. Do we just pay people to tell us what we want to hear? Is that the election process in a nutshell? If so, it explains a lot. We elect candidates committed to our cause. When they’re up for reelection, they tell us that they tried, but couldn’t get past the opposition. “I tried, it’s not my fault, reelect me and I’ll try even harder.” Then we start pointing fingers. No wonder our country is so divided! Biden’s approach is different because he’s running on the compromise. Usually, they start with the promises, get elected, and in the end we get the compromise, but he’s telling us from the start what he can and can’t do. I’m not used to that. He explained that he voted to support the war funding because they didn’t have the votes to override a veto. Edwards can raise the minimum wage, rescue an orphan, stop a speeding bullet, and carry a piano up a flight of stairs all at the same time! Biden can’t override one little veto?

It makes me ask myself, what do we really want from our candidates? When was the last time we elected a “straight-talker?” Because I can’t help but think, of the two candidates I watched, Biden’s goals seemed much more realistic. Unfortunately, we reward idealism, not realism. We elect those that make promises, and then hold the opposition responsible when they can’t follow through. It’s nice to hear a candidate tell me what he can get done and acknowledge his limitations as president; Especially since the one we have in office now doesn’t seem to have any.

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