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The Only Campaign Pledge that Matters

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In an effort to tighten the leash on Republicans running for office in 2012, an Iowa-based family values organization, despotically named the Family Leader, has drafted and disseminated a manifesto for candidates to sign and swear to. Redundantly titled “The Marriage Vow” it seeks to double down on commitments candidates have already made, will make or, worse yet, compel a pledge to its wildly warped logic of imposing an American-style sharia law while opposing Islam’s.

Its preamble can barely smother the author’s prejudice and pie-eyed nostalgia for 19th-century human rights. An original version of this document even had the temerity to suggest that a child born under slavery was more likely to benefit from a two-parent family than “an African American child born after the election of” President Barack Obama (never mind that the research referenced was conducted during George W. Bush’s presidency).

Declared presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann was first out of the gate to sign and swear by the document’s excoriation of adultery, quickie divorce, infidelity, pornography, cohabitation and Islamic sharia law. Then another Republican presidential hopeful, anti-gay scourge Rick Santorum, signed. Understandably, the remainder of the Republican field of candidates are studying the matter before answering this altar call. Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has been the only outspoken critic among the Republican presidential hopefuls.

How this pledge will help reel this nation’s economy back from the brink and provide 14 million job seekers with steady employment, remains to be seen. And what about the fidelity between each lesser-of-two-evils elected official and the voters who take him back, term after unfaithful term?

True to the buffet-style theology favored by the likes of Bachmann and Santorum, they overlook the Bible’s command to magistrates and other civic leaders in the discharge of their duties:   “[T]hou shalt not respect persons; neither shalt thou take a gift; for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. Justice, justice shalt thou follow…” (Deut. 16:18).

No 20th century culture war slogans there, nor condescending criticism of single parent families or gay couples. This oft-neglected text, older than old-fashioned, states a very obvious caution about justice and money, governing and accountability.

If we are now in the stage of this election cycle that pledges or vows should be drawn and adopted, why not one that will meaningfully shift the balance of influence in our nation? The only pledge that matters is the one an incumbent or challenger adopts: a promise to voters not to accept more than $200 per donor per year (by Federal Election Commision statute, it’s the minimum aggregate donation for which a candidate for federal office is required to report the source).

As Matt Taibbi writes about the workings of Congress in his book, The Great Derangement: A Terrifyng True Story of War, Politics, and Religion, “When you [an elected legislator] get $80,000 from Company X, you’re not being paid to vote your conscience.” And elected officials feeding at the trough of corporate largesse have proven that the experience is far too compelling to self-impose campaign finance limits.

And so, the voters must supply the other side of this pledge equation: to refuse campaigning or voting for any candidate, incumbent or challenger, who hasn’t committed to limit campaign contributions to $200 per donor. There’s no doubt in any voter’s mind (within the lower 98 percent income group) that we have embarked upon deeply troubling times with increasingly dire economic and political prospects.

However, to bring about this bottom-up change will require an exceptional openness of mind from the the public, as well as some surrender of personal latitude. Voters will have to cooperate with one another individually and mutually among communities and various organizations. It will demand an attention to, and engagement with, civic and legislative affairs, equal to or greater than the slickest, palm-greasing Capitol Hill lobbyist around.

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About judefolly

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Jude –

    How this pledge will help reel this nation’s economy back from the brink and provide 14 million job seekers with steady employment, remains to be seen.

    Jobs? Are you kidding? Since the Republicans took over the House in January, how many jobs bills have they introduced? Zero.

    Why? Because they know that if they do what is necessary to help America’s economy, it’s four more years for Obama.

    Republican Party uber alles!

  • Baronius

    The pledge does cite an article that doesn’t contain the supporting statistic, as Jude noted. A non-rigorous look online indicates that the two-parent statistic holds up, though. It looks like about 60-ish percent of children of slaves were living with both partents in 1850, and 30-ish percent in the early 2000’s. My bet is that things didn’t change that much between 1850 and 1860, or between the 2000’s and the 2009. I also note that a lot of people online are mischaracterizing the pledge as asserting that blacks were better off under slavery. The pledge doesn’t say that. So, both the citation of the original pledge and the online references to the pledge are incorrect.

  • Never mind the fact that wild eyed fringe groups insisting that candidates sign dumb pledges is just ludicrous folly.

    [Besides the infelicitous slavery language, the pledge contains a polygamy clause that might give Mitt Romney pause: his great-grandparents were in a plural marriage of 5 wives and 1 husband.]

    Of course, what pledges like this are really about is prejudice: the fear and hatred aroused in some by the oh-so-shocking notion that gays will be treated as equals.

    Hateful foolishness.

  • By the way, Michele Bachmann’s husband Marcus can be heard on tape giving hateful speeches about overcoming those “barbarian” [his word] homosexual urges, and is almost certainly an “ex-gay” himself, who believes in “praying the gay away.” Both hilarious and nauseating.

  • agreed, oaths compelled for a narrowly-defined culture war–nutty. but i would enjoy hearing your proposal for meaningful campaign finance reform.

  • Baronius

    And now candidates’ spouses are fair game?

  • If Ms. Bachmann didn’t share her husband’s disgusting mythological beliefs about gay people, his views might not be relevant. But I bet she won’t disown those views.

  • Baronius

    And Bruce Willis had to defend “Striptease” when he was married to Demi Moore.

    If you have any respect for civil discourse, don’t cross that line.

  • Another point of view [Michelle Goldberg writing in The Daily Beast]:

    Why does any of this matter? Bachmann may be dishonest about his practice, but he’s not the one running for president.

    Yet in describing herself as a small-business owner, Michele Bachmann clearly takes partial credit for Bachmann & Associates, and so its activities reflect on her.

    Besides, she’s made it clear that Marcus exerts authority over her, telling one church audience that she bowed to her husband’s instructions to study tax law because “the Lord says be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.”

    That means his character and beliefs are more germane to her candidacy than those of other political spouses. He’s the head of the woman who wants to be the head of country. He’s also a man with dubious qualifications running a clinic whose counseling techniques can ruin lives.

  • Jon Stewart [assisted by Jerry Seinfeld] did an epically hilarious bit on “Dr” Bachmann tonight.

  • Baronius

    Was it as good as his Michelle Obama bit with the funny voice?

  • I remember Stewart taking some heat [mostly from Fox] for doing a Herman Cain voice, but I must have missed the Michelle Obama one.

    At any rate, you can watch this on The Daily Show web site. It’s not only very funny — it ties the congresswoman directly to the story quite effectively.

  • Baronius

    Sigh. Handy, your ironymeter must have been turned off. Jon Stewart making fun of a black Democrat’s wife with a funny voice? Please.

  • Baronius

    Oh, wait, I’ve got another one: how about Jon Stewart feeling “sad” after a Republican lies for a week and a half about a sex scandal?

  • How is that irony? Someone’s been misguided by Alanis Morrisette

  • Baronius

    Right. Sarcasm.

  • It is not your most appealing [or skillful] quality. Just sayin’.

    PS Stewart did do a fairly outrageous Barry-Obama-as-Barry-White number during the health care debate. “Let me take care of all your…pre-existing conditions, baby.”

    Accurately imitating Michelle Obama would be rather…boring. Accurately imitating Marcus Bachmann [or Herman Cain] does have some built-in laughs, even if they are in questionable taste.

  • Back to the topic of this article: Jon Huntsman, among others, is refusing to sign any dumb pledges, including this one.