How Pledges Can Work

“Don’t hear me, I can shout!”

[ Note: This references and builds on my previous posts . . . Trust No Incumbent and Pledges: Candidate Contracts. ]

How will candidate pledges for progressive positions on key issues be effective?

How will this work?

Intimidation!

That’s right. The same tactics that have been used by the extreme right to turn our Congress into a gallery of sniveling sycophants, toadying to the every wish of their moneybag campaign donors will work for us.

Granted, some of the legislators may even mean well. But intimidation has turned too many of them into drooling lapdogs. The form this intimidation takes is always the same: Fear of losing the next election.

If we play our cards right, we can lose the election for them just as effectively as any SuperPAC or lobbyist. Or at least hang that prospect in front of their sallow faces.

Either they sign our pledges, legally-binding contracts with their constituents which reflect the explicitly stated desires of a vast majority of Americans __ we only ask for pledges on those issues where there is clear and overwhelming support from the voting public __ or they face a shit storm of bad publicity!

We will call them out one-by-one on their duplicity. We show loyal voters who have previously supported them that their campaign speeches mean nothing. Either they sign on the dotted line and offer real commitment to the laws and policies a huge majority of Americans want or . . .

We harrass, frustrate, obfuscate.

We yell, scream, demonstrate.

We demean, decry, humiliate.

We mock, shame, intimidate.

We call them out on their hypocrisy and their blatant disservice to the nation!

Until they do the right thing.

Until they start representing us, the people who elected them.

Until they put the interests of the majority of Americans first and tell their rich corporate sponsors to take a hike.

Oh yes, they’re going to be upset. Very upset! I’m fine with that.

In fact . . . fantastic!

Let them whine about how hard they’ve been trying.

Let them promise to do better next time.

Let them plead for just one more chance.

We’ve heard it all before.

Sure, we’ll give them one more chance.

Sign the pledge!

There’s your one more chance!

If they refuse?

Intimidation!

Most of this won’t cost a penny.

We go to the local and regional papers . . .

“Local Citizens Group Claims [candidate's name] Refuses to Sign Pledge to Protect Social Security”

[Candidate's name] Refuses to Sign Pledge to End War and Bring Troops Home from Afghanistan”

We Facebook it. We Twitter it. We Tumbler it.

We call it into radio talk shows. We get ourselves on TV.

We carry signs at rallies, in mall parking lots, on busy street corners . . .

Millionaire Senator [name] won’t sign pledge for fair taxes on the rich!

Congressman [name] won’t pledge support for affordable health care!

Let me emphasize an important point: It doesn’t have to and shouldn’t wherever possible revolve around a single issue. Each voting district has its hotbuttons. It has some set of issues which are threshold issues, matters of public policy which a majority of voters have strong feelings about. These are wedge issues. Each one equates to a pledge. Refusal to sign any or all of the pledges results in the offensive I am proposing, a campaign to educate the public. To force the candidate to comply.

What if after a couple weeks of this, in the middle of the night the candidate is visited by the Angel of Political Enlightenment? His survival instincts kick in as he sees he’s losing public support. He reconsiders. Here he comes. Look at that sagging tail!

Mr. Butthead candidate has thought things over. He’s reconsidered.

He signs the pledge! He signs the pledges! All of them!

Alright! Great! Wonderful!

This is not about humiliating the guy or gal, even if he or she has so far been a traitorous butthead. It’s about getting our way. It’s about putting law and order, real representative democracy back in government. It’s about getting laws passed that will benefit us and not just the tiny elite club of the super rich who already have so much they couldn’t spend it all in a hundred lifetimes.

It is about getting the country back on track!

We want affordable health care, not more money wasted in a system that stuffs the pockets of the health insurance industry, bankrupts individuals and is undermining our economy.

We want to keep social security from being swallowed up by more tax cuts for the rich.

We want our men and women in uniform home safely, not in body bags from fighting the pointless wars to protect corporate interests, wars that are making Americans less safe and more the targets of terrorist attacks.

We want first-rate education and top-of-the-line schools, not hollow institutions run by corporations fighting for market share.

We want the rich to pay their fair share of taxes and stop bleeding every dime they can extort from the rest of us.

Practically everyone wants this stuff! Look at the polling on many of these issues. Read my earlier post Trust No Incumbent. Americans aren’t confused about what needs to be done. The politicians are. Or pretend to be, to cover their money-lined tracks.

Intimidation!

Demanding that a these pledges be signed will put legislators on notice that we the voting public have had it, that we are tired of them screwing around, that we are fed up with them putting big money campaign donors ahead of us.

It’s extremely likely that only a handful of these voter ultimatums need to attract some serious media attention. District by district we concentrate on incumbents who have voted against legislation which is hugely popular. Once it becomes national news that in certain key campaigns voters have expressed their outrage using these pledges, that there is a showdown underway, that there is a voter rebellion which might possibly spread across the country, it will cause massive fear and trembling in every vulnerable incumbent.

Hey! They may end up coming to us begging to sign our pledges.

Intimidation!

Is it blackmail? Maybe. It’s definitely coercive. But not any more than Überfuehrer Grover Norquist’s demonic methods. Anyway, who cares? It’s the New American Way, the way politics is done these days. American democracy has devolved into gangland tactics, brutal threats, cage fighting, and bullying. We didn’t start it. Surely this is not democracy as we were taught in civics class. But it’s the way it is.

Which means . . . using the very same tactics the enemies of democracy are using to destroy a once-great system seems to be the only means we have of rescuing it.

Let me take this a step further. If we need a further justification for being so ornery, in many cases, these pledges are actually doing a candidate a favor!

Let’s give the benefit of the doubt to some legislators. Maybe they want to do the right thing but are afraid to. They have been threatened by their big money corporate donors.

Signing these pledges gives them cover.

Picture it! When the bags-of-bullion bullies say, “Hey, Mr. Hotshot Legislator. What’s the deal? Why didn’t you vote the way we told you to, when we gave you that $25,000 for your campaign?”, the noble congressman can say, “I had to sign a pledge. Otherwise, your generosity notwithstanding, I would have lost the election.” When the Machiavellian will-work-for-anyone-with-the-bucks lobbyists ask their lapdog play-for-pay politician why he is actually doing something good for the American people, he can say, “I signed a damn pledge. If I hadn’t introduced that bill, I would have been forced to resign. You don’t expect me to throw myself out of my job, do you?”

Intimidation!

Let’s stick it to them!

Let’s put the corrupt politicians on notice.

“Your days are numbered, toadies. Either start working for us . . .

. . . or you better start looking for a new job!”


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  • Cathy Gray

    FABULOUS!!! When do we start? Can we find someone in each state that can write up the pledges properly. Not only does this need to be done at the national and state levels but also on the local levels as well. Not one legislator in this country should be missed. That includes not only republicans but must include democrats and independents too. Even school board members, as in some states school boards DO NOT always do what is in the best interest for students (i.e. forcing students to learn creationism, removing science classes or humanity classes, removing sex education classes, forcing them to take FCATS, etc.). 

    • http://jdrachel.com John Rachel

      This approach is geared to take on malefactors regardless of party affiliation. Money has corrupted the political process across the board. I agree, it needs to be implemented at a local level and target the worst offenders. It all starts with the petitions, gathering hard data on local support for certain legislation which the incumbent has voted against. This is what will grab his attention, not as a petition, but as a threat to his or her re-election. Go for their soft underbelly!

  • Cathy Gray

    How can we get involved with this? Is there a group of some kind that is forming to do this? If so, is it open to just about anyone who wants to help?

    • http://jdrachel.com John Rachel

      It could and should be implemented immediately. Organization is at the local level. I just whipped this up and have had no time to put anything formal together. But it is probably best instituted within each voting community. It only requires a small, energetic corps of canvassers to get started. Getting signatures to petitions on key issues where there is a lot of support but the incumbent has a clear record of opposition, is where it begins. We have five months to collect signatures. The petition signatures along with the pledge smack the candidate in the head early October. It’s his or her choice then.

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  • Mark Jansen

    Democrats… herding cats.