06-29-2011 by Linda S. Carbonell
I’m not a lawyer and I’m certainly not a constitutional scholar, but while watching Stephen Colbert’s interview of Grover Norquist Monday night I learned something about the No-Tax Pledge that I hadn’t known before – it is signed in the presence of two witnesses.
Colbert pointed out that the pledge does not include the words “so help me God,” anywhere, though Norquist said that any signer is free to add them. Pledging before God is not a legal necessity in this country. We don’t sign our mortgage in the presence of a diety, but they are legally binding. What makes a document legally binding is the freely given signature, witnessed and attested to by two witnesses who have no conflict of interest with the document or its signer. Contracts don’t even have to be notarized, according to numerous court rulings involving wills and private contracts.
So we have all these Republicans – governors, state legislators, congressmen, senators – who have legally contracted with Norquist’s group to never raise taxes in any manner, no matter what the fiscal or service requirements of the government entity they were elected to serve in or the needs and wishes of the people who elected them to serve. They have vowed in the presence of two witnesses to serve Norquist’s group, not the constitution they have sworn to uphold. Norquist lives in just one electoral district, so all these signers don’t represent him, do they? His group has members all over the country, but the individuals are the constituents of only one Congressman, one Senator, one Governor, one state senator and one state representative, and those elected officials should not be signing any contract with persons who live outside their district or jurisdiction, should they? They are not making this pledge to an individual that they specifically represent, and then weighing their legislative and administrative decisions based on those few who support the pledge against those who do not. They are entering into a legal contract to a minority entity that exists outside the legal boundaries of the official’s interests and letting this pledge override the will of the majority of those they represent.
There is nothing ambiguous about this pledge. There is no “unless necessary for state or national security” clause. There is nothing that allows the elected official to honorably choose to raise taxes or eliminate loopholes if that is in the best interests of those who elected him or her to serve. It is a pledge of allegiance to Grover Norquist and his group.
If one of our elected officials signed a pledge of allegiance to Iran, we would bring criminal charges against him or file suit to have him ejected from office or strip him/her of citizenship and deport, wouldn’t we? How is the No-Tax Pledge any different? It is a pledge of allegiance to a non-governmental entity to act in a way that may be detrimental to the safety, welfare and security of our towns, states and nation.
The same idea holds true for all the other “pledges” that Republicans have signed. The Susan B. Anthony List pledge to end abortion is a contract with an extra-governmental, non-constituent group to restrict or otherwise terminate a constitutionally guaranteed right. Worse, this particular pledge involves the ascendance of a religious principle over the secular rights of our citizens in a nation that specifically bars implementation of laws that impose a religion. The SBAL pledge is a pledge to a specific religious tenet, even if not to a specific religion or church. We found that laws closing all businesses on the Sabbath were unconstitutional, didn’t we? Why are elected officials being allowed to pledge to establish a religious principle as law over our secular Constitution?
Furthermore, these pledges are not signed completely freely. It is made clear, either implicitly or explicitly that failure to sign and pledge and uphold it will result in the entire nation-wide power and influence of Norquist’s group or the other groups who present these pledges being used to deny the official re-election to his/her office.
Grover Norquist uses threats and intimidation to force our elected officials and candidates for office to vow to obey him, not uphold the Constitution and not do what the tens of thousands of people they serve want him/her to do. So, who is breaking the law – Norquist by setting himself up as an extra-government entity with the power to dictate government policy or the elected officials and candidates who pledge allegiance to him over allegiance to their constituents and Constitutions?