Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Taking the pledge

Shira Schoenberg:
During his presidential campaign, [George H.W.] Bush signed Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes. The candidate then made his famous statement at the 1988 Republican National Convention: “Read my lips: no new taxes.’’
But the deficit soared, Democrats controlled Congress, and Bush was forced to raise taxes. Democrat Bill Clinton used the broken pledge against Bush during his reelection campaign — and Bush lost.
Read my lips: don’t break promises.
Not so fast. Yes, pledges are important, and the stories of candidates taking them, or refusing to do so, chronicled in this article are interesting and relevant to the current race. And I don't think it's a huge stretch to say that pledges matter in elections, although they're probably much more important in nominations battles than general elections. Mitt Romney may face real difficulties wrapping up the nomination due to his refusal to sign an anti-abortion pledge -- that sends a signal to pro-life activists, who are major contributors of money and volunteers for Republican candidates, that he may not be their best choice of candidate.

And back in 1992, George H.W. Bush's decision to renege on his anti-tax pledge cost him significant support among Republicans and contributed strongly to Pat Buchanan's primary challenge. But to suggest that Bill Clinton only won the general election that year because Bush broke a promise is an extraordinary leap and goes against most of what we know about how elections work.

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