Pledge of Dignity

Why isn't Rep. Jared Huffman promising to defend Social Security and Medicare?

Last week, a Press Democrat editorial praised Rep. Jared Huffman for refusing to join colleagues who have promised to “vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits—including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.” 

What’s going on here?  On Feb. 28, I joined a group of a dozen constituents meeting with Huffman’s district director, urging the congressmember to sign a letter initiated by Representatives Alan Grayson and Mark Takano. That letter includes a promise to vote against any cuts to benefits in those three vital programs. 

Why did we request that our congressmember sign this letter? Republicans and some Democrats in Washington are pushing for cuts to Social Security benefits in cost of living adjustments, as well as raising the Medicare eligibility age. Those changes would directly affect the most vulnerable among us—the elderly and others with low and moderate income, who rely on these earned benefits to provide the basic necessities of life. 

What was Huffman’s response? On his Facebook page a few days later, he stated: “I won’t be bullied from the left or the right into signing Norquistian vote pledges to outside groups.”

I was surprised to see our request characterized as a “Norquistian pledge.” Promising to stand up for the more vulnerable among us is the very opposite of Grover Norquist’s extreme conservative anti-tax pledge. I was even more surprised to see myself portrayed as a bully. As a constituent, I and those with me were participating in the traditional democratic process. 

Why won’t Huffman make this particular promise to his constituents? He has certainly made other promises, such as committing to vote against any infringements on a woman’s right to choose.

Signing the letter would signal in a very strong way to his district that he is committed to fully defending Social Security and Medicare benefits. 

It’s disturbing that Huffman has refused to sign the Grayson-Takano letter. You can ask him to do so at

Alice Chan is chair of Progressive Democrats Sonoma County.Open Mic is a weekly op/ed feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].