REALLY A PANDER THERE?

Noam Scheiber makes a good point about the secondary effects of Obama's outreach to evangelical voters, but I think he's got his vocab wrong -- he calls it "pandering." But doesn't pandering imply a certain expediency, as though Obama wouldn't have delivered the best speech on religion in politics in years, or be spending today rolling out his plans for a "President’s Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships," except that he needs the votes? I think part of the reason Noam thinks this is a pander is the generally accepted but false idea that religious voters don't have a place on the left. But, looking back at Obama's personal and legislative history, it's safe to say his religious outreach is an organic part of his ideology.

Put it this way: pandering requires a politician to indulge a group that's not part of his or her natural constituency. I'd say Obama's first two general election ads, with all their talk of slashing welfare rolls and cutting taxes, could count in the pander category. Or if a politician was to call evangelical leaders "agents of intolerance" and then go slavishly beg for their endorsement. Now that's a proper pander!

-- Tim Fernholz

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