Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Promises to Grover

I don't usually write politics, but I heard some really remarkable commentary on the news today that touches on big ideas, big issues and commitments in a quickly evolving world.

haha, Grover
First some background. You may know about Grover Norquist, a conservative lobbyist for tax reform, and the promoter of a "No New Taxes" pledge that has been essentially required for any conservative politician for the last twenty years.

Like any political pledge, the lobby offers to support the candidates who sign the pledge with deep money and voter networking. On the flip side, any candidate who does not wish to sign the pledge, or who at any point contradicts the lobby, can expect negative press and a bitter, well funded challenger in subsequent elections. Norquist's pledge is considered one of the most pervasive and powerful. Over 95% of House Republicans have signed, and the lobby has nearly 1.0 success rate. Norquist himself has been considered a kingmaker.

But as the national financial problems grow, politicians on both sides have more and more reasons to disregard previous pledges and make compromises. This has led to a number of high-profile Republicans dissing Norquist by name, essentially calling for party support to end the pledge blockade.

Here's the interesting thing. A former Republican congressman and governor was discussing political pledges on a talk show. "I didn't sign them because these issues are really complicated, and they get more complicated as time goes on. My constituents elected me to make good decisions on their behalf in Congress, and I did not want to give away my freedom to do that."  What a basic understanding of our Democratic Republic.

Don't we all make promises?  Truth is, things change. In past decades maybe we could go a decade without our core assumptions about government or religion being challenged. But today new information and opportunities constantly and rapidly become available. I think that absolute pledges are relics. I think adaptability is a new virtue.

Today, let's make fewer promises. Grover is a roundabout way to think about how quickly our world changes, and how systems that worked in previous generations simply aren't able to keep up - like political lobbies. Let's make deeper, more meaningful commitments, to which we can return in our minds when the world challenges our assumptions (frequently).

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