Saturday, January 21, 2012

Presidents Try to Keep their Campaign Promises

Does it matter that Mitt Romney has promised to be a hard-right President if he is elected? Lots of people in both parties seem to think that no matter what he is promising now, he will serve in office as the moderate he used to be. But history suggests otherwise:
Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein argues that the evidence on this point is clear: “Presidents usually try to enact the policies they advocate during the campaign.”

We can all think of exceptions, of course. George H.W. Bush told the country to read his lips — a turn of speech that’s always confused me, incidentally; is lip-reading really so much more accurate than listening? — and then he raised taxes anyway. But such betrayals are not the rule.

Bernstein relies on two studies from the 1980s to make his point. In 1984, Michael Krukones published “Promises and Performance: Presidential Campaigns as Policy Predictors,” and found that “about 75 percent of the promises made by presidents from Woodrow Wilson through Jimmy Carter were kept.” In 1985, Jeff Fishel published “Presidents and Promises: From Campaign Pledge to Presidential Performance,” which argued “that presidents invariably attempt to carry out their promises; the main reason some pledges are not redeemed is congressional opposition, not presidential flip-flopping.”
The current President is keeping the trend: has tracked more than 500 promises Barack Obama made during the 2008 presidential campaign. It found he has kept 161, passed a compromised version of another 50, and has either been rebuffed by Congress or is making progress toward another 239. In only 56 cases — about 10 percent — has Obama actually broken a promise, and in the biggest of those cases — ending the Bush tax cuts for families making more than $250,000 — there’s a good chance the promise will be kept when the tax cuts expire at the end of this year.
So odds are that Mitt would try to pass some of the very scary tax and spending cuts he has promised.

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