It used to be that you might hear things such as “I am my own man” or “I am not beholden to any special interest group” from candidates striking out on the campaign trail. Mostly, that is not the case anymore. Republican candidates for President are virtually knocking each other over to see who can be verifiably the purest of the pure when it comes to current populist right-wing ideology. If Republican voters demand that all of their candidates think the same way, and must sign documents to prove it, what is the point of having primary elections in the first place? Just go to the national convention, pick the best looking automaton, put it in front of the camera, and have it recite whatever mantra that fits with that day’s speaking point.
As of this writing, GOP presidential candidates have at least FIVE different pledges to America to sign in order to maintain their bona fides as a “pure” Republican. It seems that a new special interest group is popping up daily with a pledge for the candidates to swear allegiance to in order to guarantee votes from the populist minions.
Thus far, presidential candidates have been pressed to sign on to ” A Pledge to America (for House Republicans), the Susan B. Anthony Pledge , the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, the Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge, and the Strong America Now Pledge. That is five pledges and we still have 17 months left before the election. . I have had to start a spreadsheet myself in order to keep track. Just in case that you haven’t yet become aware of them all, we will go over each of them for you here.
First we have the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, the brainchild of anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, which requires candidates to “solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases.” It has been around since 1986 and while Ronald Reagan endorsed the pledge he never signed onto it. As history would have it though, Reagan himself violated the pledge at least three times by signing tax increases into law in 1982, 1984, and 1986. This pledge has become de rigueur for any Republican wanting to hold office. Currently 40 of the current crop of 47 GOP senators have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, as have 236 of 242 of their compatriots in the House of Representatives.
Last fall, most, if not all Republican candidates for House membership, this includes presidential aspirants Bachmann and Paul, signed onto the Pledge to America. This 21 page tome states in its introduction “The need for urgent action to repair our economy and reclaim our government for the people cannot be overstated,” and goes on to say “With this document, we pledge to dedicate ourselves to the task of reconnecting our highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding by keeping faith with the values our nation was founded on, the principles we stand for, and the priorities of our people. This is our Pledge to America.” The Pledge to America states further that among other things they would accomplish if elected, a Republican Congress would repeal and replace the 2010 Health Care Reform Act, stop job killing tax hikes, provide tax breaks to small businesses equivalent to 20% of their income, roll back non-discretionary Federal spending to 2008 levels, require that every bill cite it’s Constitutional authority, cancel all Tarp payments, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, provide resources to the troops, fund missile defense, and enforce sanctions on Iran. You can be the judge on how they have fared thus far with this litany of mini-pledges rolled into one.
The Strong America Now Pledge has been circulating in Iowa for some time now. According to a press release from the group on June 7, 2011 they have 14,000 members who pledge only to support candidates who will “…commit to execute the Strong America Now Plan.” Quoting from their website, “To be listed on our website as a supporter of the Strong America Now plan, they (the candidates) must sign the Strong America Now Candidate Pledge and agree to take a two day course on Waste Reduction and practice their knowledge on a waste reduction project prior to their Inauguration.” The two day course required is in the sometimes controversial corporate management discipline known as “Lean Six Sigma”, a management strategy that originated within the Motorola Corporation in 1986. It uses statistical methods and special groups of people within an organization (known as Black Belts and Green Belts and so on) who have expert knowledge of the methods to obtain statistically error free thought and products. Theoretically, a business employing these methods can obtain product manufacturing that is statistically free of defects (defined as 3.4 defects per million units produced). Does God even achieve that standard ofdefect free production in us humans? That could be debated, but I would have to digress further.
Starting on June 17, 2011 the Republican candidates for President were asked to sign the Susan B. Anthony Pledge indicating that they firmly supported the Pro-Life Movement among other things. By signing this pledge they affirmed that they will only appoint judges to the Federal Court system who are “committed to …applying the original meaning of the Constitution…” (There goes your right to vote ladies), and fill Cabinet positions and the Executive branch with only those who possess a Pro-Life point of view. Further, by signing they vow to defund Planned Parenthood and support legislation called the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.” Signing this petition removes a significant portion of the brain pool that a future President might want to have at their disposal when assembling their government, not to mention what it would mean to the many fine people who are associated with Planned Parenthood.
The most recent must-sign pledge to hit the campaign is the Cut, Cap and Balance Pledge. This pledge currently being circulated in Congress states in their website that any signer will not vote to raise the National Debt Limit until a “plan for substantial spending cuts in FY 2012, a statutory spending cap, and Congressional passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution” are in place. House Republicans are already on record with the Balanced Budget Amendment, with the 112th Congress’ H.J.Res 2 having its sponsor and 221 co-sponsors.
So do you wonder where your candidate fits in this plethora of pledges to aid in the selection of the perfect Republican President? Currently Tim Pawlenty has signed or indicated that he would sign, all but the Pledge to America. Ron Paul has signed all but the Save America Now pledge. Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain have signed three pledges each, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich two each, and Mitt Romney has only signed on to the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Where is John Huntsman in all of this? He refuses to sign any pledges saying that “My take on all of this is your record should say everything about where you are and where you’re going. I don’t need to sign a pledge,”. In today’s Republican Party climate, that seems to be a very risky position to stake out for yourself.
It would appear that Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty are the truest Republicans running for President this year and one of the two should be a shoe-in for the nomination next year (Barring any additional signings by the others). Given the current atmosphere in the Republican Party that a good Republican always marches in lockstep with the ideologues that surround them, (no R.I.N.O’s allowed), it would also appear that John Huntsman would be the only declared candidate with zero chance of winning since he refuses to sign any of these purity pledges. Does anyone really think that that is the way this zombie race will ultimately work out?
What these pledges actually do is pander to the base, enabling a candidate to proclaim at rallies around the country that I am a purer form of Republican than thou. I will never raise your taxes and I promise to always protect a fetus’ right to a pain free gestation. I will nominate only those men and women who have passed the litmus test of the Federalist Society to the Judiciary, and only appoint those who are of a like mind to the Executive Branch. Further I pledge to you that I will take a two day class in order that I may apply only the statistically purist of thought and technique to the problems facing this country, prove to you that I can do it by solving a really hard word problem, and fill my administration with folks dressed in belts of many colors, without regard to the question of whether they are the best or brightest. Additionally I promise that the Federal budget may only be capped and cut, and that I will support a Constitutional Amendment that forces Congress to do what it already has the authority to achieve, if it only possessed the will. That is my pledge to you.
Whatever the outcome at the Republican National Convention late next August, whoever the winner is finally determined to be, it is going to be tough for nominee to say to the independent voter, when they are being questioned about their signatures on these or any future pledges, that I really didn’t mean exactly what it was that I signed. Oh really? So your signature and swearing to those ideals meant nothing. You were just verifying that you are a liar, is that it? By signing these pledges, Republicans are boxing themselves in on many positions that they may wish they had some fudging room with come next fall. Given their signatures on written documents, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to wriggle out of statements intended to placate and win favor with your base. These pledges can only be making things easier over at the DNC. Their motto this campaign season might just be “sign baby sign!”
The sixth and latest vow to be thrust into the campaign, The Marriage Vow Pledge, comes from the Christian conservative group, Family Leader. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum were elbowing each other out of the way trying to be the first to get their signed pledges into Family Leader organizer Bob Vander Plaats hands last Thursday, July 8th.
Maybe they should have taken a little time to read more than just the blurb before rushing to sign the document. The 14 point pledge has candidates vowing to be faithful to their spouses and respectful of the marriages of others. That wouldn’t include being respectful of gay marriages though, because aspirants would be required to oppose gay rights through vowing to support “earnest, bona fide legal advocacy“ for the Defense of Marriage Act, and support for a Constitutional Amendment “which protects the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in all of the United States.” It also seeks to head off a Muslim takeover of the country by having the presidential hopefuls swear their opposition to Sharia law. Among other points, the office seekers signing this pledge would also swear their “Recognition that robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security.” and “Fierce defense of the First Amendment’s rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech, especially against the intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy.”
All of the aforementioned and most other things in the pledge are pretty much typical conservative Christian fodder for the faithful. However, you might think that these wannabe’s for the highest office in the land might actually have learned to read what you sign by now. But alas, both Bachmann and Santorum were so in a hurry to sign this thing that they forgot to read the part about slavery as the first ding in the armor of the Institution of Marriage in America and that African-American children were better off as slaves than they are now. The original vow posted stated that “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African- American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.” I say original because once people of intelligence started reading and pointing out what the candidates had signed, Family Leader scrubbed all references to slavery from the document and the candidates tried to say that they didn’t really mean what they signed (like I pointed out that it would be tough to do earier).
I think that the chants of “sign baby sign” are growing louder over at the DNC.