Dan Holler

Simple question: do you trust politicians?

If so, count yourself in the distinct minority. In September, Gallup found just 34% of Americans had a great deal or fair amount of trust in the legislative branch (i.e., Congress). Gallup went on to say, “Americans' trust in the legislative branch has dropped substantially over the last 10 years, from 67% in 2002 to 34% this year, although the 2012 figure is up slightly from last year's all-time low of 31%.”

See, it’s not just you. Most Americans don’t trust their politicians.

Whatever comes from the ongoing negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff will have to be sold to the public as a good deal, and for that to happen politicians have to be trusted. One of the most intuitive ways to build trust is to keep your word. In other words, if you make a promise, keep that promise. That way, when you say something your constituents will believe it.

Sounds easy, right? But as we’ve seen, it’s not.

Remember in 2008 when then-Senator Barack Obama criticized Hillary Clinton’s proposal for an individual mandate. How would you enforce it, he asked. It will make the insurance companies happy, he said. A mandate would place a burden on the poor, he proclaimed.

We all know how that story ends, but that wasn’t the only promise he broke. Double foreign aid by 2012? Nope. Close Guantanamo Bay? No chance. Stop the revolving door? Ha! Increase minimum wage to $9.50 per hour? Not even close. Clean up superfund sites….I could go on, and on, and on…

Unfortunately, President Obama is not the only politician guilty of breaking promises.

Over the past several weeks, Republican politicians have been flirting with the possibility of breaking their promise not to increase taxes. The left’s excitement is palpable. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), proclaimed, “Republicans in both the House and Senate are deciding they no longer want to be married to this pledge” not to raise taxes.

Schumer is giddy that some Republicans are openly discussing breaking a promise they made to their constituents. To be clear, this wasn’t a promise made a couple decades ago. None of these folks ran for reelection on the promise of raising taxes; in fact, they were promising pro-growth tax reform.

It’s not just on taxes, though.

In September, 36 Senators signed a letter promising to oppose any and all treaties during a lame-duck session of Congress. Because the Senate requires a 2/3 vote to ratify treaties, the number of signatures on the letter all but guarantees no treaty can pass during lame duck. That is unless a handful of Senators go back on their written word.

On Tuesday, we’ll find out if they will break their promise when the Senate is scheduled to vote on the United Nation’s disability treaty. Like most UN treaties, this one not only fails to advance America’s interest abroad, but opens the door for a Geneva-based “committee of experts” to interfere into America’s policymaking process and intrude into areas wholly unrelated to disabilities.

Sadly, it goes on.

The year-end negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff bring up the distinct possibility that a massive package will move through Congress on the weekend before Christmas. (Remember, Obamacare originally passed the Senate on Christmas Eve in 2009.) That package could include a plethora of items, including the farm bill, stimulus spending, tax extenders and more.

In their 2010 Pledge to America, House Republicans attempted to woo disaffected voters by promising to “end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with ‘must-pass’ legislation to circumvent the will of the American people.” Instead, they promised, “we will advance major legislation one issue at a time.”

As conservatives, we cannot afford to go back on our word, or our principles. If we do, no amount of focus-grouped poppycock will save us.


Dan Holler

Dan Holler is the Communications Director for Heritage Action for America. Previously, he held numerous positions at The Heritage Foundation, most recently he was the Senate Relations Deputy. A Maryland native, he is a graduate of Washington College.