Did you know that some people think it’s naive to expect a presidential candidate to keep his/her word? I promise you, this is true! I’ve been called it right to my face. By no small coincidence the person doing the speaking was one of the most monumental douchebags I’ve ever met. And no, he wasn’t even my boss. He wasn’t quite that bad.
As we gather our collective will, about to commit ourselves to the task of voting, I’m here to ask: What is a presidential promise? Why are they made? Do they even matter? Should we even care? And what, if anything, should happen when they are broken?
Consider this: If it is naive to expect a presidential candidate to keep his/her promises, then what’s the bloody point of it all? If that’s the case, what selection criteria should go into your vote? Why not just vote for the candidate you “like” the most then, when he/she’s all legit, expect him/her to do whatever the hell he/she wants?
Take Romney, for instance. Part of his platform is officially “get me in there and then I’ll fill you in on the rest of the details later.” Some might call that refreshing. Some might call it straight up. At least he’s not trying to fool the naive folk, right?
On the other hand, he does make his share of promises, too. The biggest one I can think of is: “I’ll create 12 million new jobs.” Now that’s a promise. Never mind that a bunch of economists predict that the U.S. will create those jobs either way, over the next four years, regardless of which of the two choices we select in 2012.
Hey, I’ve got a promise for you, too. The sun will come up tomorrow. I promise. If it actually happens, does that mean I’m brilliant? That I had anything to do with it? And what if it doesn’t? What happens then? Well, we’ll all be dead and there will be no one around to give a shit.
It’s a classic win-win.
Some Eistein smartypants will no doubt say, “Whatever. A president doesn’t have ultimate power. He’s not a dictator. Not unless we’re talking about Obama, of course. A president can’t just do anything he wants. He needs help from Congress and stuff. He can’t go it alone.”
True. And precisely because of that fact, I’ll tell you how, in my opinion, promises should matter.
What do I expect of the presidential candidate who gets my vote? Simple. I expect the president to fight for what he promised to do to the best of his ability.
Does this mean the president will always be successful? No.
Does this mean the president can fulfill promises merely through sheer force of will? No.
Will a president sometimes have to compromise to get things done? Yes.
Will there be legitimate times when a president can change his mind, thus invalidating a promise? Yes, but I believe these should be extremely rare and preferably accompanied by overwhelming public support.
If president promises to do XYZ and fights for XYZ but isn’t able to get it done because of circumstances outside of his direct control, I can live with that. I won’t hold it against him. The point is that he never gave up on the promise.
But if he simply shrugs, throws in the towel and acts like nothing happened? Then we have a wee little problem. Then I tend to take umbrage.
Here’s a little example:
[In September 2000] when George W. Bush and Al Gore were neck-and-neck in the polls, Bush declared carbon dioxide a pollutant, promised to regulate power plant emissions, and criticized Gore for advocating voluntary controls. On Tuesday, [March 13, 2001], buckling under pressure from lobbyists, contributors, and conservative members of Congress, Bush reneged on his campaign promise. This comes as no surprise to residents of Texas, where as Governor, Bush was the #1 recipient of donations from the Texas Chemical Council, whose members released 187 million pounds of toxic waste into Texas land, water, and air in 1996 alone.
Source: The Dubya Report
It only took two months in office for George W. Bush, in writing, to officially dump one of his campaign promises.
The United States is a republic, not a democracy. A republic is a system in which the people choose representatives who, in turn, make policy decisions on their behalf. If politicians don’t keep the promises they make during campaigns, why bother having politicians at all? Is the premise that they always know better than us? Sorry, I don’t buy that.
True, the “mob rule” of democracy may lead to various problems, but does that mean politicians acting against what they said they would do is any better?
By the way, Obama hasn’t been perfect at keeping his promises, either. The PolitiFact website, in addition to their Truth-O-Meter, maintains something called the Obamameter which is a scorecard that tracks Obama’s campaign promises. This is how they rate him at promise keeping:
Promise Kept: 38%
Promise Broken: 17%
In The Works: 20%
Not yet rated: 0%
Source: The Obamameter
I believe that promises matter. If not, I support a constitutional amendment to select presidents in the future using a giant 20-sided die. I promise you it would be about as effective.
Here’s hoping that candidate elected next week will work hard to serve the people by fighting to keep his promises. If not, I’ll be here in an acrimonious fit of tizzy umbrage.
You can call me naive if you like. It’s a free country and you got the first amendment which gives you the right.
And now for the prostitutional part of this post, if you have the constitution for it: