Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge (the "Norquist Pledge") that he demanded of conservative legislators has become a weapon of mass destruction. The American economy now suffers from the burden of unsustainable cumulative debt and the shredding of the social contract because the fiscal terrorists of the right refuse to require the rich to pay their fair share of the cost of sustaining a viable, compassionate, humane society.
In addition to the imposed fiscal conservatism of the Norquist blackmail, there is a second pledge, the "silent pledge," allowing big money to trump voter preferences in determining national policy. We see this in the deluge of dollars flowing into Washington via lobbyists, campaign contributions, PACs and SuperPACS that have drowned out the legitimate voice of the common citizen.
I suggest that we can the Norquist Pledge and the "silent pledge" to an opposite effect; that is, as a means of restoring sanity in the legislative branch of government. This coming election provides the necessary and pivotal opportunity to confront our representatives and deliver an ultimatum, an ultimatum in the form of a new kind of pledge, one that hasn't been seen is a while -- a pledge to do the right thing. Or else!
We put it in writing. It takes the form of a candidate pledge to decisively and unambiguously undertake certain initiatives in Congress on a particular issue. There are specific directions to implement a policy supported by a large majority of American voters. We force candidates to sign the pledge. If they do, we're in. We get the legislation we want. If they refuse, we humiliate them, harass them, jeopardize their support, attempt to defeat them. We brook no compromise. We accept no excuses. We leave no room for equivocation.
For this to work, the pledges must cover those issues where the voting public by vast majorities have indicated precisely what they want done: Social Security, taxes on the rich, the war in Afghanistan, oil industry subsidies, Medicare. Frankly, it is appalling how many important issues the public has in credible polls indicated unambiguously where they stand only to have our politicians defy them.
Every candidate should be required to sign the pledges. This would put the control of voting on these critical items directly back in the hands of voters.
Realistically this is impossible. There simply is not enough time. So for now, it is more important to target incumbents, specifically those incumbents who have voted against enormously popular measures. Conveniently, via their voting records, they have handed us the ammunition we need to force their hands. These are the arrogant scoundrels who have brazenly sold the American public and their constituents down the river. They have bowed to their rich campaign donors and blown off the rest of us as irrelevant.
These are the ones we go after. They are the ones we need to either turn around or send packing.
Let me point out that this kind of precise targeting is exactly the way the right wing goes about decimating the ranks of progressives. It obviously works. Time to turn the tables.
Step 1: Petitions
The process starts with petitions, i. e. canvassing within a particular voting district, or state if the incumbent at issue is a senator, for hard evidence of the level of public support for the initiatives we want to see passed.
Here is a sample petition, the suggested format for canvassing on any issue:
I am a registered voter and will only vote for a candidate for public office who will leave social security alone. If a candidate guarantees unequivocally to fight for keeping social security as it currently stands, I will give that candidate my unqualified support.
Obviously, the petition is more of a statement of support for a specific policy position than an actual petition for some action. But it accomplishes precisely what's needed here.
In fact, the petitions are the linchpin for the assault on these scoundrels. They provide the leverage needed to get the attention of candidates and make them an offer they can't refuse.