‘Tis the season of resolutions. With the new year comes pledges to quit smoking, get out of debt and spend more time with family. Gym memberships jump. Weight Watchers’ profits fatten.
This also happens to be the season of political resolutions. It’s that every-fourth-year event featuring presidential candidates in a contest of campaign promise one-upmanship. Ron Paul pledges to legalize marijuana. Michele Bachmann swears she’ll cut gasoline prices to $2 a gallon. Newt Gingrich guarantees he’ll create millions of jobs “right now.” Mitt Romney assures every college graduate a job.
Unfortunately, this also has been, for some time, a season of damned lies. These are deliberate deceptions involving a higher level of scheming. The Contract with America and the more recent Pledge to America are examples. Republicans knew they couldn’t fulfill what they led the public to perceive as promises. But the GOP designed these “pledges” specifically so that Republicans couldn’t be labeled as failures when what they pseudo-promised never materialized. That’s the stuff of damned lies.
Unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions are legendary. Low calorie salad fixings fill fridges Jan. 2, and remain there, rotting, on Feb. 2. The victim of this broken promise is also the perpetrator and therefore unlikely to protest the infraction.
These days, political resolutions strewn along the presidential campaign trail are picked up and carefully cataloged on the Internet by reporters and bloggers who hold candidates accountable for every syllable. That’s a good exercise, but the public generally recognizes political promise hyperbole and realizes that unexpected events may prevent a president from keeping his word. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for example, pledged not to involve the country in the European war, but then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Mostly, the public shrugs off presidential contenders’ inflated political resolutions.
Damned lies, however, are dangerous because they subvert trust in the political system, which needs the faith of the electorate to function. Damned lies may, in fact, be an integral part of Republican strategy since the GOP hates government of the people by the people and hopes to shrink it small enough to drown in a bathtub.
In their 1994 Contract with America, Republicans vowed: Read the rest of this entry →