… but no pledges, please, Vincent

Having praised Vincent Sheheen for challenging Nikki Haley to actually be transparent for a change (since that’s, you know, her platform), I’ve gotta say I’m with Nikki on this:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen has signed a pledge, promising to make an effort to appoint qualified women to senior level positions on state boards and commissions if he is elected.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley declined to sign the pledge.

Like Nikki, I wouldn’t sign the pledge, either.

Now settle down, ladies. (If you’re OK with me calling you ladies.) Nothing against hiring women.

The problem is the pledge.

My objection may seem a bit wonkish and technical, but please attend:

I believe candidates should not sign pledges about what they will do or not do in office. The cause doesn’t matter; the problem is the pledge itself. It undermines the integrity of the political process. Candidates may speak of general intentions, but specific promises — particularly when taken to the extreme of putting them in writing — are a bad idea.

It is essential to self-government, and particularly to our system of representative democracy, that once in office a public servant should study the actual situation that he faces in office (which can never be accurately, fully anticipated before the election), and engage as an honest, unencumbered agent in deliberation with others to reach a decision about what to do.

You think this is just a fine point, a mere ephemeral abstraction? Well, you liberals applauding Vincent for this stand should take a moment and contemplate the severe damage done to South Carolina by the fact that Grover Norquist got so many GOP lawmakers to sign his anti-tax pledge. It has made comprehensive tax reform impossible, and led to a downward ratcheting of tax revenues that had nothing to do with the state’s actual spending needs, and everything to do with Norquist’s aim of shrinking government to the point that he can drown it in a bathtub.

But whether you like the aim of the pledge or not, they are a bad idea — that includes the pledge that Democrats were passing around awhile back to promise to spend more on education — because they shackle an officeholder from dealing in the future with the actual, practical situation that lies before him.

So Vincent — please do express your desire to see more qualified women serve in your administration. That’s great. But no pledges, please.

9 thoughts on “… but no pledges, please, Vincent

  1. Doug Ross

    “downward ratcheting of tax revenues”

    Really? The budget has grown by 50% in the last decade. The only reason revenues are down lately is due to the economy, not to cuts in taxes. And even then, it’s only down a couple percent.

    What evidence is there that tax revenues have ratcheted downward?

  2. Doug T

    I agree with you Brad. Pledges are a cop out. We need to know what our candidates stand for, and trust they will do the right thing under changing circumstances. If they don’t do what we expect, then we vote them out.

  3. frank

    Brad, my guess is that Nicki has no problems whatsoever signing off on a no-tax pledge.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    With all due respect, as Brad has paid, to the pledge proponents and their very worthy aim, I certainly wouldn’t want any less-than-the-most -qualified woman to be in office (see, e.g., Nikki Haley) because of any pledge.

    That said, is it really so hard to find equally highly qualified women? Why don’t we have more women in positions of influence in our government?

  5. Doug Ross

    “Why don’t we have more women in positions of influence in our government?”

    Because women have higher standards and better ethics?

    Because women typically are unwilling to step on anyone to get to the top?

  6. Kathryn Fenner

    Because women are usually not in the “game”–possibly because the game is taking place in the mens locker room at the country club…dunno…

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