Signing a pledge is not unheard of for politicians. Almost all Republican members of Congress have signed Grover Norquist’s promise to oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes. It is enforced by Americans for Tax Reform, a well-funded organization that Norquist founded. Any candidate who dares violate their commitment will have an ATR backed primary opponent in the next election. I believe this anti-tax pledge violates a politician’s oath of office and stifles compromise in the political process — but it exists and has been very effective.
Norquist is a Libertarian whose objective is to starve the federal government of tax revenue. But his efforts have served to further divide our Congress into tribes. This adds to the animosity among our elected officials that has escalated into vile campaign ads and even personal attacks.
The political process has always involved a fair amount of nastiness — but it seems to have gotten much more pervasive in recent years. It is one of the facets of politics that not only divides our politicians and creates gridlock, it divides the electorate. Another is the funding required to compete in elections and the necessary selling of one’s soul to get it. Money in politics has shutout competent men and women while enabling special interests to literally buy many substandard, sometimes unethical candidates who are eager to do their bidding.
As a result, Americans are losing confidence in their elected officials, the political process and even in democracy. Think of it – Congress has an approval rating of only 21 percent and it has been much lower than that. We must find some way to reverse this discouraging trend — which is the impetus for the following:
A Pledge to Unite Americans and Preserve America
Recognizing that I am human and therefore fallible, to the best of my ability:
I PLEDGE TO
- protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic.
- put this nation and my constituents above party loyalty and personal political gain.
- uphold and strengthen the separation of powers, the rule of law and the independence of the Justice Department and the judiciary.
- speak no hate and call out hate speech from supporters and opponents alike.
- unite my constituents and never instill false fear in them for political gain.
- be honest, as good as my word and never use my office for personal financial gain.
- work vigorously to eliminate the influence of special interests and money in politics.
- listen thoughtfully to my opponents and supporters alike and never denigrate opponents simply because they disagree with me.
- facilitate voter registration and the right of every citizen to freely vote.
- reject and seek to eliminate discrimination, bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism.
- faithfully discharge the duties of my office in the best interests of my fellow Americans and legislate to improve their health, welfare and safety.
AND FINALLY TO
- admit when I have violated this pledge, apologize and take corrective action.
You’re right – I am totally idealistic and naïve to propose such a pledge and even more so to expect any politician to sign it or to hope any organization would attempt to enforce it. I plead guilty as charged. And besides, this pledge would be vigorously opposed by many special interest groups and ideologically oriented organizations, along with white nationalists and neo-Nazis. But — isn’t that the very reason it’s needed?
The midterm elections were a positive sign; still, this nation is in crisis. It is divided like at no time in my memory. Even the tumultuous period of protests during the Vietnam War and the criminal conduct of President Nixon’s administration didn’t seem as threatening to our democracy as what we see in the news almost every night. This division — that seems to extend widely and penetrate deeply into the fabric of our society — is a threat to our national security that it is being exacerbated by an adversarial foreign power. And these subversive tactics by Russia are being countenanced by some Republicans at the highest levels of our government. It’s hard to believe.
Sadly, certain unsavory, even illegal, political practices have become commonplace over the past couple of decades. Many politicians think nothing of casually lying about their positions and about the policies of their opponents. State and county officials change the laws and rules to make it harder for some citizens to vote, usually minorities. To these miscreants, retaining political power has become the overriding consideration, pushing ethics and the Constitution to the side. Well, dammit, that is not acceptable conduct in a democratic nation.
I agree that corporate revenues and profits are important. But they shouldn’t be paramount. No rosy economic outcome is worth what is occurring — the angry rending of our citizenry along partisan lines and the erosion of the rule of law. The stability of our society and the integrity of our judicial system have made the United States a beacon of hope for all freedom loving peoples around the world. We must actively and strongly protect these and other critical keystones of our democracy. And we must promote and support politicians who conduct themselves in the spirit of this pledge. Working together, I believe we can help heal the divisions.
Today, however, our democracy is not in good hands. Preserving it will most certainly rest in ours.