Posted by: Schuyler R. Thorpe | August 13, 2011

Pledge Allegiance To Nation–Not Right-Wing Ideology

LET’S PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO OUR NATION, NOT TO IDEOLOGY

WASHINGTON — If anyone needs an example of what is going wrong in America as our country’s leaders carry us to a massive governmental default, consider this:

In addition to Congress’ incapability to arrive at an agreement on paying off or even extending payments on America’s debts, we have the odd, new (at least for me) political phenomenon of “pledging.”

For some of you, that may revive memories of college fraternity or sorority pledging; for others, the Pledge of Allegiance; or, of course, the sacred pledge to “love, honor and …” something-or-other. But no, this pledging is different and could deeply harm our polity.

No one knows exactly the genesis of these patches of quicksand, but The Associated Press now describes pledges as “spreading like kudzu” on the campaign trail, everything from pledging to support traditional marriage, to oppose taxes, to reduce the deficit, to fight abortion and gay rights and more.

Advanced mostly by right-leaning interest groups, these pledges are used both for good public relations in the society at large and also to threaten candidates with loss of support should they commit the unpardonable sin of breaking their pledges when it comes to an actual election.

A prime example of this syndrome is the pledge to never increase taxes. At this moment, every Republican member of Congress has signed the party’s Americans for Tax Reform pledge designed by Republican Rasputin Grover Norquist, who “leads from behind” by getting Republicans to commit themselves in writing to his policies.

If it came to a vote, it would be easy enough for the pledgers to gather together and defeat any bill to raise taxes. But some leaders, even steadfast Republicans, will have none of it.

Jon Huntsman Jr., former Utah governor and ambassador to China, a Republican candidate for the presidency, answered the pledge phenomenon with, “I don’t sign pledges other than the Pledge of Allegiance and a pledge to my wife.” Yet, another Republican candidate, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, has signed virtually all the pledges — and sometimes added her own thoughts to them.

This practice may seem harmless, but it is far from that. Pledging to support a political plank of principle, before you know anything about the context in which it will come up in a real campaign, is not only irresponsible but also dangerous, especially today, when the health of the nation is best served by politicians who are profoundly flexible.

This doesn’t mean politicians should be without principle; it means truly WITH principle. It means having the intelligence to know when your country calls upon you to think and to compromise; and it means having a sense of balance in your everyday life — especially in your relationships with other politicians. It means having a nation that is not frozen by unsullied beliefs, but one where its protagonists will act according to the demands of history.

Breaking your pledge is, in truth, exactly the opposite of breaking your word. A pledge is a political or civic promise to follow a certain road — but roads, as we all know from Robert Frost, often demand difficult, sometimes imperfect, choices. Breaking your word is breaking a moral or ethical promise made to your fellow human beings and not so easily compromised. It would seem that rather too many right-wing Republicans have confused the two tollways.

Thus you come to the situation of the United States today, where the tea partiers would rather have the U.S. default on its debts than take active measures that would call for sacrifice on both sides. One has to be staggered by the foolishness of it all.

In the 1960s cultural revolution, the Democrats were dominated by childish far-left elements who wanted total control and who gave us multiculturalism and a panoply of near-Marxist experiments; now we are dominated by infantile far-right Republicans who would devastate the country by pushing their agenda of anti-abortion, wars in the Middle East, unchecked market forces and no higher taxes. Neither group is mature enough to run the country.

For us to prosper, we must — must — at times compromise; and our future depends upon handling this moment right.

Yet parts of our political class still seem to think that they can play with America’s future, making demands without seriously watching where the world — and our beloved country — is going or what our polity can afford to change.

Our nation depends profoundly at this moment upon serious, flexible people who will not give up on their policy choices, but who will keep them in the right perspective and will see the danger that pledges can do to policy-making.

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