The “people’s pledge,” signed by Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown in last year’s Senate race, was never a perfect instrument, but it represented a commitment by both candidates to take ownership of their campaigns. The pledge tells shadowy third-party groups not to run attack ads that would malign one candidate while allowing the beneficiary of the ads to stand by and claim no involvement. The pledge, under which each side was to pay a penalty for any outside ads by its supporters, largely worked. It didn’t prevent negative campaigning. But when uncomfortable issues came up — such as Warren’s claim to have Native American ancestry — neither side could delegate the dirty work to outside groups: Warren had to explain herself, and Brown had to make any attacks directly.
Almost immediately after Democrat Ed Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez won their parties’ nominations on Tuesday, they began squabbling over the pledge: Markey endorses it, but Gomez doesn’t. While both sides have somewhat distorted the meaning of the pledge, Markey is right that it is a force for clean campaigning. Gomez should take it.