Political pledges are a fact of life in today's polarized climate. The rise of the Tea Party has led to a slew of oaths on the political right, from Grover Norquist's "no new taxes" pledge to "Cut, Cap and Balance."
In Iowa the Family Leader, a religious right group founded by Bob Vander Plaats to oppose same-sex marriage in that state, drafted "The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family." Though criticized for its outrageous claim (since dropped) that African-American families were better off under slavery, the "Marriage Vow" was signed by Republican presidential contenders Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. All in all, the "Vow" is the religious right's wet dream, in which the signers pledge, among other things:
"Personal fidelity to my spouse ..."
"Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage."
"Recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex, longer lives, [and] greater financial stability ..."
"Humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy [children] ... from human trafficking, sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, [and] abortion ...
"Rejection of Sharia Islam ..."
"Commitment to downsizing government ..."
Not to be outdone, the National Organization for Marriage produced its own pledge, signed by GOP hopefuls Bachmann, Santorum, and Mitt Romney. This one pledges support for "a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman," nominating judges and an attorney general "who are committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution," and "establish a presidential commission on religious liberty to investigate and document reports of Americans who have been harassed or threatened for exercising key civil rights to organize, to speak, to donate, or to vote for marriage and to propose new protections, if needed." For years religious conservatives have claimed that they are the "victims" of "intolerant" LGBT activists. This pledge demands that the government take their side.
The Progressive Pledge
For our part, political progressives have not been as prolific in the pledge department as our conservative opponents. But there are still a few oaths emanating from the left. The progressive "beeryblog" ("Fighting a War on Ignorance") drafted a cheeky "Progressive Pledge" to confront the Family Leader's "teabagger pledge." For this one, progressive candidates are asked to pledge that:
"My intimate relationships are none of your goddam business ..."
"I will uphold the U.S. Constitution and its separation of church and state, and I particularly note that it never mentions God, Jesus, or the Book of Leviticus ..."
"What you eat, who you bang, how you spend your money, and how you raise your kids is none of my goddam business ..."
"I will do all I can to shield America's children from right-wing, ... shameless scare tactics, base bigotry, animus toward others, and marauding teabaggers who seek to prey on their malleable spirits and fill their little minds with crazy ... teabaggery ..."
(Visit here for the uncensored Pledge.)
Contract for the American Dream
Meanwhile, Van Jones of the progressive Rebuild the Dream joined forces with leaders of MoveOn.org to establish a popular movement that will hopefully challenge the Tea Party. Inspired by Newt Gingrich's 1994 conservative "Contract on America," they drafted a "Contract for the American Dream" which they hope will be signed by progressive candidates. It lists "ten critical steps to get our economy back on track":
1. Invest in American's Infrastructure
2. Create 21st-Century Energy Jobs
3. Invest in Public Education
4. Offer Medicine for All
5. Make Work Pay
6. Secure Social Security
7. Return to Fairer Tax Rates
8. End the Wars and Invest at Home
9. Tax Wall Street Speculation
10. Strengthen Democracy
"We, the American people, promise to defend and advance a simple ideal: liberty and justice," proclaims the Contract for the American Dream. "Every one of us - rich, poor or in-between, regardless of skin color or birthplace, no matter their sexual orientation or gender - has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Didn't Thomas Jefferson write that? Though I don't expect too many politicians to sign this Contract, its goals are worth fighting for. For more about the Contract for the American Dream, visit their website.