Is it ever appropriate to break a pledge?

Grover Norquist is back in the news, as some Republicans have indicated that they are prepared to break their pledge never to raise taxes.  Is it ever appropriate to break a pledge?



23 responses to “Is it ever appropriate to break a pledge?”

  1. Christina4 says :

    This is a difficult question because pledges of congressmen are definitely a factor in their election. However, does this make for a close minded Congress? I think candidates are starting to realize that these ultimate declarations like Norquist’s plesge can make for some uncomfortable policy changes in the future. I think that should at least be held for a term because, essentially, candidates are elected on promise and the world changes. Elected officials though, should be able to change opinions as the political climate changes.

  2. Jonas1 says :

    Breaking a pledge is not something that should be taken lightly or done often. How can we trust our lawmakers if their word means nothing? There are, however, situations where pledges can and should be broken, and this is one of those instances. Representatives’ first and foremost responsibility is to their constituents. If that duty conflicts with a pledge they signed to an advocacy group under vastly different economic conditions, then they are absolutely justified in breaking it. As Sen. Graham put it, “the only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid being Greece.”

  3. Naiyah1 says :

    Making a pledge to constituents is something that many politicians do, and I do not think that these pledges should often be broken. I think, in this situation, the pledge should be kept at least for the term in which it was made. However, keeping a pledge that is so strict leads to a greater divide in the government, in which no one is willing or able to compromise. While I don’t think that politicians, especially Congressman, should sign a pledge like this, if they do I think they should not be ridiculed for breaking it if it is in an attempt to compromise and get work done.

  4. Tanya4 says :

    I agree with Naiyah, pledges should be kept within the term in which is was made. Otherwise how can citizens trust the word of politicians? However I also think change and growth of opinion are important to ensure a congress that can reach decisions through compromise. Compromise will not be achieved if senators or house members sign a pledge stating that they will NEVER vote for a certain action (for example raising taxes) Our opinions can and sometimes should vacillate and thus I think that in many cases to reach a compromise, or consensus breaking a pledge is necessary.

  5. emmar4 says :

    Just Peter King said in his interview, a pledge signed 18 or 20 years ago may not be relevant for the current situation. The political climate shifts and progresses constantly, so pledges or promises might not be applicable twenty, ten, or even five years down the road. If every representatives stuck to their pledges and vows 100% of the time, there would not be enough flexibility or compromise to get things done. While the integrity and loyalty of a representative is important for citizens to count on, it does not outweigh the responsibility to support laws which help the common good. If supporting these laws result in breaking a pledge, and there is a necessary and valid reason for it, I think it is acceptable.

  6. BenLev4 says :

    Personally, I believe that a pledge should not be broken. When congressmen sign Norquist’s pledge, one of their main goals is to get the endorsements and money from Americans for Tax Reform. When you are signing this type of document, you are accepting the long term deal you are making and the consequences (both positive and negative) that will follow. Personally, I would never sign a pledge, regardless if I believe in the cause or not. By signing such a pledge, I am pigeonholing myself. Signing a pledge constricts actions I want to take, and votes I want to make in exchange for money and endorsements. So if the congressmen are willing to sign this document to get the benefits in the short run, they should be prepared to stay behind this idea throughout their time in office.

  7. sophiae7 says :

    The issue of breaking pledges is a very tricky issue. I feel that over the years politicians have used pledges in order to gain votes from constituents but not because they whole-heartedly agree in the pledge they are signing. This leads to politicians going back on their word and breaking the pledge that they have signed. I think that it is okay for politicians to go back on their word if they have a basis to do so but it is another thing if they break a pledge. Politicians should only sign pledges if they are 100% sure that they won’t break it in the future. One result of this will be less politicians who signed pledges which I think would be a good thing because it might expedite legislation in congress because they won’t be “tied down” to a certain topic.

  8. katiepetrino4 says :

    Though breaking pledges put the congressmen who signed them in a tricky situation come the next election, these pledges should not exist in the first place. If politicians are passionate enough (or have enough incentive…), they will stand their ground on issues. These pledges just encourage gridlock in Congress. As we approach the fiscal cliff, this is a time for compromise. Pledges shackle politicians to a position that, as times change, they may need to be flexible on. Such a climate fosters an attitude where compromise is so unpopular that one’s view comes before the best interests of the country.

  9. Jen1 says :

    I completely agree with Jonas. Pledges serve an important purpose, but a Congressman’s stance should be able to change or become subject to compromise if he/she finds it necessary for their constituency or for the good of the nation. However, I don’t agree that pledges shouldn’t exist altogether. Pledges hold officials to their word and give voters insurance that their elected candidate will try to follow through or continue to hold a certain position in office. It makes sense to me to allow tax being raised for conditions benefits that will ultimately help to achieve the goal of lowering the debt. To me, this is not violating the mentioned pledge.

  10. Nyle4 says :

    To go into politics and expect not to negotiate with the opposing side is…well self-righteous and immature. Our government has been based on compromise, dating back to the slave issue in the Constitution, although it wasnt necessarily what either side wanted but came up with a middle ground for the better of the country. Unfortunately, people like Grover Norquist make it their lives ambition to discredit the Republicans in office who try and negotiate. People should stand by what they believe but also remember there are very few absolutes and always be willing to negotiate for the betterment of the people they serve.

  11. megweck1 says :

    Norquist’s pledge is focused on an ideal that is difficult to maintain. Some of these policymakers have begun to see that it is indeed a bit unrealistic, as they cannot forsee changing circumstances. Yes, I do believe that as a policymaker there is a level of consistency that must be kept. I would of course hold anyone that signed the pledge to their word, because they knew at the signing that if they broke the pledge it would have a detrimental effect, so therefore they must have believed in it to a certain extent. However, I think Norquist is slightly mistaken in his belief that breaking the pledge somehow means sudden death in the world of politics. I think breaking ANY pledge should cause in constituents to reevaluate the politician in question, and Norquist’s pledge is no different.

  12. govrobin1 says :

    Personally, I think that this pledge should, if anything, only be valid for one congress. When the composition of the congress changes, the issues change as well and to refuse to budge on a pledge so broad as this one is the neglect compromise and bipartisanship. Although I believe this signature is only valid for one term, I think that pledges like this are senseless and unintelligent. You can stand for what want, and support whichever position you feel is correct, but you should not sign a pledge so strict as this one. People in office should want to compromise and get things done in order to help America as a whole, and these “binding” pledges are in no way moving our country in the right direction, no matter the subject of the pledge.

    • Paul1 says :

      The nature of a pledge is to be a permanent agreement. While I believe that legislators should not have to be held to a commitment from 20 years ago, I think the greater issue is that the pledge was created in the first place. Pledges should not be created that hold politicians to unsustainable standards. Politicians should not sign such pledges, regardless of party pressure, or to support their own campaigns–even though both factors contribute to the near majority of the Republican politicians who have signed Norquist’s pledge. If politicians do create and sign pledges, they should only be ones that can be reasonable upheld during their entire political career.

  13. Crawford4 says :

    Pledges like this have no place in our government in the first place. Although I understand the point of view that the policy makers knew what they were doing when they signed the pledge and therefor should not be able to break it my personal opinion are that the stakes are too high for let Grover Norquist play puppet master when the fate of the national economic is hanging in the balance. Policy makers shouldn’t be responsible to anyone but their constituents. The fact Grover had so many people sign it in the first place is disturbing but I’m glad that congressmen and women are finally taking a stand against Grovers dogmatic approach to the tax issue.

  14. andreaj7 says :

    Pledges are meant to be binding agreements, but Norquist’s anti-taxation pledge is a commitment that both restrains and outdates the members who agreed to sign it. Though only a few GOP House and Senate members have chosen to break their pledge to “not raise taxes as long as they’re in the House or the Senate”, the fact that some members actually did brings about the question of loyalty to political parties as it corresponds to party platform. Not all Republicans believe in the total elimination of government taxation, but any GOP Senate or House member who agreed to sign Norquists’s pledge had to have had strong judgment on the subject. Now that these members have revoked their “contracts” (so to speak), it is becoming more clear to me that ideology/party commitment is everything but stagnant.

  15. langston4 says :

    This question of pledges is a very hard one to answer in my opinion. If a politician makes a pledge, I believe they should honor it. They chose to sign the pledge, which means that it is a principle that they are willing to stand by and defend. They have made a promise to their supporters and constituents, and to turn their backs on the people is dishonest and the sign of an untrustworthy government. However, pledges can also lead to less cooperation and less productivity in government. They can create a divided government, where neither one is willing to compromise with each other, and progress cannot be made. So in this case, it can be good for a politician to go back on their word, but only if its for the good of the people.

  16. nicoleb7 says :

    Pledges are very complicated because it seems unclear to people if they can be broken or not. I think people should not be allowed to break a pledge. If politicians are allowed to break pledges then how are the people supposed to trust them in the future? Why should they be allowed to promise something and then once they are elected not have to deliver it? Of course they should not be allowed to break pledges because they are binding contracts and they need to be held to their word. Yes, there are extreme times when it could be necessary, the political world is changing all the time and if it is in the interest of everyone for the pledge to be broken then it should be, but most of the time they are broken just because the person does not want to follow through on them. I think because it is so controversial the way we get rid of the problem is by getting rid of pledges all together. There is no need for politicians to make pledges to get help get elected, especially if they are going to break them in the future.

  17. molly4 says :

    I agree with Ford in that pledges such as Norquist’s have no place in government. The job of elected representatives is to make decisions based on their own good judgment in keeping with the current situation and issues. There is too much at stake on a national level to be concerned with party politics and pressure that limit representatives’ adaptability. Lawmakers should not be bound by a pledge that restricts their ability to follow their judgment on a situation that is not the same as it was when they signed the pledge. That the pledge was even created is upsetting because it is unreasonable to assume that the national situation in the economy will not change over time and thus require constantly changing responses.

  18. robhrabchak4 says :

    As Grover Norquist pointed out, it is made clear when they sign this pledge that it is in effect for as long as they hold the office. Because of this, politicians should be held accountable even if they signed the pledge 20 or more years ago. That being said, I think that it is completely irresponsible for a politician to make this type of commitment because I think every politician would agree that in some scenario, no matter how unlikely, it would be appropriate to raise taxes. They could never know what sort of changes will come about during their term, so they should have all options available to them at all times in order to most effectively fulfill their duty as an elected representative.

  19. Chad4 says :

    I think Grover Norquist’s role in the discussion of a “Fiscal Cliff” is being overanalyzed. While I understand that Norquist does have some influence in Washington politics, he did not force any Republican Senator or Congressman to sign the pledge. Now, I believe it is wrong to break a pledge, but I think that this situation requires it. If Republicans want to ensure that Norquist loses any power that he may have right now in politics, I think breaking the pledge is the right thing for them to do.

  20. jackb7 says :

    It is not only naïve to think that this pledge should not be broken, but to believe in its mission is a farce as well. The idea that someone should pledge not to raise taxes, despite the fact that they know nothing of what the future will bring is irresponsible. Instead of trying to jam a conservative talking point down everyone’s throats with the pledge, we should be letting the policy makers do their jobs without the guilt of a pledge.

    It’s also ironic to me that the conservative party can claim to be both anti-taxation yet pro Ronald Reagan, a man who raised taxes several times during his stint as the commander in chief. Though i suppose it does speak to the neo-conservative rhetoric to claim one thing like civil liberties and small government as their basis, yet believe in imposing laws and policies based on the theology of the majority of the party; that being evangelical christianity.

  21. bump7 says :

    I believe that the most important thing in making a pledge is to keep it no matter the circumstances. When one takes an oath or vows to do something they have made the decision to see there vision through no matter what happens. Morally the person has asked someone to trust and rely on them and if they cannot hold up their end of the bargain they show their true colors. For me keeping a promise is a form of true character and although it may be tough to follow through on a pledge it is even harder to look someone in the eye after you have let them down.

  22. Ryan4 says :

    I agree with those above who highlighted the importance of a pledge, and basic morals lead me to believe that once a pledge has been made, it must be backed regardless of the circumstances. To change ones pledged beliefs is one thing, but I feel as if given a certain time requirement the pledge would no longer be valid as the circumstances for the pledge have changed. So, unless some drastic grounds for reassessment occur, the pledge should be honored regardless as it was up to said politician to be educated on the effects.

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