Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Thought on Cultural Pandering

You know what makes me sick? When candidates try to do crap that they wouldn't normally do in a misguided attempt to "impress" a certain category of voters. What bugs me is that it seems de rigeur for candidates who currently live a middle- or upper-class urban/suburban lifestyle to pretend like they're good-ole-boys (or girls) from the country. I don't remember Bill Clinton (who actually was a good-ole-boy) eating sushi and shopping at Whole Foods in an effort to impress me. Where's my cultural pandering, dammit?

When candidates try to impress "soccer moms," they don't show up at a campaign rally in a minivan with their kids in the back seat. When candidates try to impress urban professionals, they don't hold the rally at a coffeeshop with a cappuccino in hand. I don't know that I've ever seen a candidate for national office show up at a black barber shop for a haircut, and I personally really don't care whether a candidate knows a latke from a matzah. So why do candidates feel the need to shoot whiskey and sing the praises of car racing and bowling to the Appalachian and Southern white rural working class? And why does the media feel the need to rip them for "not connecting with voters" if they don't? Do we really think the white working class is that stupid?

I really can't wait for the candidate who quits with the cultural pandering and stands up there and says, "You know what? I like sushi. I eat arugula in my salads. I drink lattes. Birkenstocks are damn comfortable. I'm bored off my ass by NASCAR, I think Jack Daniels tastes like shit, and I drive a fuel-efficient Toyota. But you know what? My ideas are far better than what this other schmuck has come up with. I'm supporting policies that will make your lives better, whatever floats your cultural boat. Yeah, if you want a President that acts like you, better vote for someone else. But if you want a President who will work to make this country better, I'm your candidate."

Update via Jacob: At least McCain is pandering to the coffeeshop crowd. Or maybe he just likes espresso. Sad that in our current political climate we can't really tell.


Mike said...

I will be that candidate in 2016. Well, except for the last part about working to make this country better. Because I'm a lazy bastard.

Seriously, I've never understood this either. And for some reason (maybe because Hillary Clinton is such a skilled panderer) it seems worse this election year. Oh well. Bob Barr doesn't seem to be doing any pandering at the moment.

-Dave said...

"Do we really think the white working class is that stupid?"


The slightly longer answer would be that you're trying to wedge your way into the mind of someone that goes to the polls and thinks nothing more than "He seems alright." When it comes to minorities of any stripe - racial, economic, demographic or political - you get less bang for your buck trying to pander, and you may interfere with your attempts with the larger demographics.

If this is true, then I'd expect to see pandering to the top 2 or 3 groups in the country (the more you add, the more it looks like pandering, so you want to limit it somewhere), and hoping to snare the rest with a dash of policy and ideas.

Matthew B. Novak said...

I don't understand why you're eliminating the possibility that there's a correlation (or maybe even some sort of causal link!) between running for president and a love of whiskey/NASCAR.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Actually, we know McCain likes espresso. My wife used to work at Carribou Coffee in Crystal City and he came in and ordered one a few years back.

Andy said...

Cultural panderer might only never stop, it may actually be necessary for politicians. Jeff and I touched on this some in our in-office discussion but I repeat it for everyone unable to work with us. 1. The ultimate objection is to win and if cultural pandering or pretending to like whiskey gets one more vote in Charleston, WV, then maybe it's worth it. 2. I think there will always be a latent (in this country, at least) distrust of a bourgeoisie or ruling class, which is what politicians are: highly educated (typically lawyers) of a non-aristocratic, wealthy upper class. Cultural pandering is an attempt to bring that class division. And last (which Jeff and I debate constantly) 3. the average politician is 100% NOTHING LIKE the average voter. Even Heath Shuler. The average voter is a 46 year-old female (so, the closest is Hillary), makes ~ $60,000 a year (not even close), saw about a year of college (once again, politicians are more educated). So, there's a disconnect problem. Which do you think is the biggest percentage of our population: the latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, hybrid-driving non-NASCAR supporter? Or the exact opposite? My bet's on the latter. Your argument might be, why does the voter need to vote for someone just like them? For the same reason I chose a priest of my denomination to marry me, an educated woman like to myself to marry, a bar with a certain atmosphere to patronize. We like the things that are like us.

Jeremy said...

For this same reason about the perceived education requirements of someone seeking the presidency, there is probably a bigger argument between the Yalies and Harvards about who should be president. The last few pres's....:

Dubya: Yale
Clinton: Oxford (and Georgetown)
Bush I: Yale
Reagan: Eureka College

Regan was the last pres not to attend what is considered an uppercrust school for secondary education. Is it any wonder he was nicknamed "The Great Communicator?"