In this dispiriting display of pandering and group-think, two notable contrary examples stand out.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, alone on the stage in voting for the temporary funding bill, declared his determination not to deny arms and protective equipment for the troops his 2002 vote helped send to Iraq — even, he said, if it costs him the nomination.
And on the Republican side, Sen. John McCain of Arizona defended his and the president’s comprehensive and humanitarian approach to immigration — a grace note in what was otherwise a rather discordant pair of ensemble performances. ~David Broder
What do Biden and McCain have in common here? For one thing, they are both wildly, profoundly out of step with their parties on these questions. Broder praises these two as examples of resisting “pandering and group-think,” but what this actually means is not that Biden and McCain have taken some bold, independent position, but simply that they have sided with the conventional wisdom of the establishment that a) we cannot “precipitously” withdraw from Iraq and b) we must have comprehensive immigration reform. In other words, they are engaged in pandering and group-think, but their pandering and group-think are not aimed at their constituents or the parties they propose to lead in the general election as the respective presidential nominees. Biden is participating in the group-think of the foreign policy establishment, while McCain is pandering to the media and the interests of business. They pander and conform to the political establishment, rather than to the wishes of the public. There is always something very distasteful about pandering and groupthink (see Mitt Romney and John Edwards as examples), but at least pandering to the voters has some minimally respectable justification in what is allegedly a representative government. By contrast, Biden and McCain show themselves to be predictable functionaries of the Washington insider set and they also happen to be wrong on the policies where they differ from their competitors. That’s quite an achievement.
What dispirits Broder is actual political difference between the parties and the gall of most of the presidential candidates to speak to their respective constituencies in language that those constituencies will find appealing. I may also be horrified by most of the GOP field’s easy-going banter about tactical nukes (as should any sane person), but for good or ill these candidates are competing for the support of their party’s base right now and that will inevitably involve candidates from both parties saying things that David Broder will find unrealistic or strange. This is because David Broder is thoroughly out of touch with the views of most Americans on both Iraq and immigration, just as he is on most issues.