Pandering Season

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

The midterm elections are coming this fall. Do you know what that means? It’s pandering season. It happens every election cycle. You can set your clock to it. Politicians of all stripes are tripping over themselves to do things. That might sound nice, but it’s not. They aren’t doing things that need to get done. And they aren’t doing things that may make people’s lives better. They are only trying to do things that are quick, easy, popular, and most likely won’t make any real difference to anyone.

One of the interesting things about pandering season is looking at whom the politicians pander to. Republicans typically pander to their base while Democrats typically pander to the independents and the opposition. You can see a sort of logic to this. For Republicans, pandering is almost like a “Thank you for voting for us.” For Democrats, pandering is more of a “If we do something they like, maybe they’ll vote for us.” What we end up with in Republican controlled places is more and more absurdly draconian laws that hurt women and marginalized groups. In Democrat strongholds, we get pointless or regressive tax holidays and rolling back health and safety measures.

The funny thing is that all the pandering is completely unnecessary. The people that the Republican pandering appeals to would never, ever, under any circumstances vote for a Democrat. Meanwhile, the people that the Democrats’ pandering appeals to would literally rather die than vote Democrat. All of it causes a rightward tilt every election season that is bad for everyone.

I always wonder why politicians bother with the pandering. At best, mostly for the Republicans, it takes time and effort that would be better spent campaigning or talking to constituents or fundraising. At worst, mostly for the Democrats, it makes their supporters less enthusiastic about supporting them. There are other ways to persuade voters. The best of those ways is actually and demonstrably making the lives of all citizens better. Can you imagine that? Politicians actually ending the pandemic instead of simply removing safety measures. Or politicians preventing crime rather than increasing police budgets. How about mitigating climate change instead of suspending gas taxes? It would be wild, but any politicians who did it would get reelected in a landslide. Now, how do we get them to understand that?

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