Voters should take passes on candidates who sign pledges.
The pledges I’m talking about are the special interest groups who demand that political candidates sign pledges, take vows, etc., promising to always take stand A and never, ever agree to stand B, C or D. Never raise taxes. Never allow same-sex marriage, etc. It seems like conservative groups are far and away the pledge-iest, but certainly liberals are not immune.
This week, Iowa Democrats made hay over three Republican U.S. Senate candidates who signed a pledge created by “Don’t Fund Obamacare,” an offshoot of the Senate Conservatives Fund. The fund has been a leading force behind the push to shut down the federal government, and flirt with a default disaster, unless Obamacare gets the ax.
According to the fund’s website, state Sen. Joni Ernst, radio host Sam Clovis and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker each signed on, pledging to “ONE, support the full repeal of Obamacare; and TWO, oppose any bill or budget resolution that provides funding to implement or enforce any part of it.”
The repeal part is no surprise. For one thing, it will, apparently, solve all of the nation’s problems, almost overnight. Also, failing to join the repeal brigade ends all hope for anyone hoping to win a GOP primary in this day and age, almost overnight.
But for the mild-mannered general election voter, part two is a real groaner. It endorses the exact political strategy that created the unwatchable, unfathomable ultra-mess we’ve just feasted our weary eyes upon. You’d think the sight of very ugly polls and the strong smell of failure might prompt a swift rethink of such a pledge. Perhaps that’s just “surrender caucus” talk.
But forget this particular pledge. It’s time for candidates to stop signing any and all pledges.
What does it say about a policy stance when its backers feel the need for a blood oath? It says, sooner or later, you’re going to have buyer’s remorse. Your political career will become a cell phone contract.
It ignores how a big, diverse country like ours has to be governed: working through differences, considering new approaches, giving and taking. Pledging to never yield is the opposite. You’re pledging to not govern.
We’ve seen lots of not governing. We’ve seen daily debacles, manufactured crisis and vandalism dressed up as “principle.” We’ve had it up to here. And now, these candidates are pledging endless reruns of the same sad saga. Not smart.
Toss those pledges into recycling. Your oath of office is the only pledge you need.