You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Pander Bears

Jon and Noam are betting the current gas-tax debate will be a political winner for Obama. But I wonder if they're too smart--or maybe informed is the better word--for their own good. In the short run-up to Indiana and North Carolina I'm not sure how many voters are going to absorb the substantive vacuity of the Hillary-McCain gas-tax-holiday. Jon cites Mark Schmitt's line that "it's not what you say about the issues, it's what the issues say about you." But what if in this case the issue says not that Obama is an independent reformer but simply that Hillary is fretting about cash-strapped blue-collar folks while Obama is up in an ivory tower? I'm obviously not saying that's a true characterization. I'm just saying that politicians engage in stupid pandering because it works, and it's tricky to pull off a successful anti-pander. (Ask Bill Clinton how Paul Tsongas' Social Security-related "pander bear" complaints worked out in the 1992 Florida primary.) The smart blogospheric reaction has been killing Hillary and hailing Obama--and substantively that's appropriate--but I wonder if people are also conflating good policy with good politics in a wishful way. We live in the world as it is, unfortunately...

--Michael Crowley