By Dave Stancliff/For The Times-Standard
Posted: 08/07/2011 02:30:25 AM PDT
Once upon a time saying the Pledge of Allegiance wasn't a controversial issue. While growing up in the 1950s, I said it every morning in my classroom. Sometime during the 1960s, the Pledge of Allegiance disappeared from classrooms.
It's so politically incorrect today that generations of students have never heard about it. Progress? That's a matter of perception. A lot of people don't like making pledges of any kind. The commitment that comes with a pledge is inflexible and sometimes conflicts with common sense.
A pledge can be good or bad. It depends on the subject and how it's applied in everyday life. A pledge to quit smoking cigarettes would be a good one. A politician's pledge not to compromise is a bad one.
When Republican interest groups insist that presidential candidates take a pledge not to co-operate with anyone who doesn't agree with their demands, they short-circuit the democratic process that built this federal republic.
As the world looks on in stunned amazement at how polarized our political process has become, faith in the world's leading democratic bastion fades. Economists around the world are on the brink of declaring our economy a disaster. World markets suffer as inflexible pledges shackle political candidates to conservative ideology. We're seeing the result: chaos.
A simple statement around a popular principle -- keeping taxes low -- puts pressure on politicians to back that cause forever or risk losing possible supporters.
The oldest and most pernicious of these pledges was dreamed up by Grover Norquist, the leader of “Americans for Tax Reform.” He's managed to get 95 percent of all Republicans in Congress to pledge never to raise taxes for any reason.
Norquist's anti-tax the rich plan has superseded the representation the Republicans are supposed to provide for all their constituency, and has become a roadblock in negotiations. In a pledge outbreak, Republican candidates are pressured to take a slew of divisive pledges.
Recently, Ryan Hecker, a Tea Party activist who helped craft the 10-point Contract From America said he's withholding support from any GOP candidate who declines to take his pledge.
Another group, The Susan B. Anthony List, which supports anti-abortion advocacy, pressures GOP candidates to sign its “Pro-Life Presidential Leadership Pledge.”
Why are GOP candidates capitulating and conforming to pledges? Don't they realize they're being asked to slip on straitjackets that'll restrain their effectiveness? Signing denies them flexibility -- a must for any politician hoping to successfully negotiate with an opposing party. Like it or not, we do have two major political parties. Compromise is a must to pass legislation. We're not a dictatorship yet.
There are hopeful signs that not everyone is going down this primrose pledge path. Freshman Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told the Associated Press, “I think I've kind of supported enough pledges. I've restricted myself too much this Congress.”
One of Sarah Palin's conservative “Mama grizzlies” who signed Norquist's anti-tax pledge has decided she won't sign any more. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said, “I support the concepts in their pledges, but what matters most is my pledge to uphold the United States Constitution.”
The Republican Conference Chairman, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, also said, “My only pledge is to the United States of America.” I believe defying the political pressures to pledge projects strength. Those who do so will be rewarded and re-elected, because they demonstrate concern for all Americans, not just the pro-corporate wealthy.
A good example of how crazy some of these pledges are is the bizarre “Marriage Vow,” in which candidates agree to oppose same-sex marriage, reject Shariah law (Muslim law under the Koran) and pledge personal fidelity to their spouses. Sanity won out and this was changed after a public outcry.
These pledges should be looked upon as political poison, and not the cure for solving America's economic woes. Pledging to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution is the only promise required of a new president.
I'm still comfortable with the Pledge of Allegiance I recited as a child in school, and when I went into the United States Army in 1969. I still believe in America, despite what's currently happening to our political process in Congress. I still believe the majority should rule, as outlined in our Constitution, and not an extreme minority.
As It Stands, united we stand, and divided we fall. Sound familiar?
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