As election season approaches, Commentator Bill Schubart has been
looking skeptically at the array of candidate pledges being offered up
by various special interest groups in exchange for political support –
and trying to decipher their impact on future leadership.
Question… should political candidates take ideological pledges? If they
do, don’t they then compromise their future leadership options?
Leadership, after all, is about the agility of decision-making in real
time in the face of real and often unpredictable trends, events or
Two oaths or pledges in current fashion are the Pro-Life
Leadership Presidential Pledge retailed by the Susan B. Anthony List, a
group that raises money for anti-abortion candidates. Then there is the
Grover Norquist – led Americans for Tax Reform whose anti-tax pledge
that punishes GOP legislators who either take the pledge and then renege
or waffle or who fail to take the pledge at all.
The Pro Life
pledge commits signers " to select only pro-life appointees for relevant
Cabinet and Executive Branch positions," and "to permanently end all
taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending
programs, and defund Planned Parenthood" among other commitments. The
Taxpayer Protection Pledge commits the signer to never support any new
tax initiatives. If he or she contravenes the pledge, Americans for Tax
Reform unleashes a barrage of opposition among its adherents.
pledges are sold as pre-requisites for getting the support of splinter
groups of voters. But do these pledges ultimately constitute leadership
or compromise it?
A seasoned leader knows that their success
will depend largely on the diversity of options and solutions available
to them and that leadership must be unencumbered by pre-electoral
commitments even those with which they might at agree. An elected leader
can have no foreknowledge of the challenges and events they will face.
How would an anti-war pledge by Roosevelt have affected the outcome of
World War II? FDR was loath to engage America in the War, but the
escalating German aggression left him little choice.
pledges drag us as a nation down and limit our options. They are quite
simply political huckstering, divorced from the wisdom and charisma of
true leadership, which, unlike many of today’s candidates, is expressed
in humility, inquiry and open- mindedness.
Great leaders exhibit
a sense of service to people and institutions not to ideologies or
special interests. They don’t trade political points for special
interest donations or restrictive pledges. They have the courage and
humility to make clear that leadership calls on them to keep an open
mind and the freedom to forge necessary change around consensus.
bread and circuses approach to politics has precedents in our history
and, every once in awhile, a leader surfaces among us who has the
courage to walk away from the pervasive nonsense of politics and address
honestly the economic, social, environmental, or diplomatic challenges
America faces. We can only hope that the next election will bring forth
such a leader either from the incumbents or from the current gaggle of
aspiring presidents, senators, congressmen and judges.
candidate who has shackled him or herself to a fixed position pledge on
anything prior to assuming the mantle of leadership will lose my vote,
as they will have compromised the very essence of leadership.