Former Penn. Gov. Rendell Addresses Political Courage, Calls Fracking a ‘Godsend’

“It’s no secret that government in not working in America,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said Tuesday at the Sanford School. Two things are stopping government at the federal and state level from getting things done: partisanship and lack of courage by elected officials, he said.  At the federal level, President Obama has “basically no Republican support on anything,” he said. 

Rendell has political experience at the federal, state and local levels, having also been mayor of Philadelphia and chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 election.

Rendell asked members of the audience to suggest causes of the extreme partisanship, which included an irrational dislike of President Obama, redistricting, the 24/7 news cycle which whips up the base and makes negotiation difficult, the recession and the elimination of earmarks. No earmarks means the executive has limited ability to offer legislators money for pet projects in return for backing bills.   

Politicians should have more courage to work for the good of the American people, not just their party, he said. Citing the example of Russ Feingold, the only senator to vote against the resolution to go to war in Iraq, who lost his next election, Rendell said, “There are some things worth losing for.” That vote looks pretty good now, he said.

“If I were king of the world, I would make it illegal to do polls on favorability until six months before an election,” Rendell said.

Rendell pointed to the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate, which stalled in the House.  A political insider predicted it would pass in March, after the filing deadlines for primary elections have passed.

Politicians “are petrified of being challenged in primaries. It’s pathetic,” he said.

Rendell answered questions about his support of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale.  “Fracking has been a godsend to Pennsylvania,” he said, revitalizing small towns across the state. “Water from fracking cannot be discharged into waterways now unless it meets the standards of the Clean Drinking Water Act,” he said. All energy sources involve trade-offs, but fracking can be regulated to be reasonably safe, he said. 

Rendell ended his talk with a call for involvement from college students, through voting and public service.  The talk was sponsored by the Duke Political Union, the Public Policy Majors Union and the Sanford School of Public Policy.