For Republicans in North Carolina, the Future Now Fund is the gift that keeps on giving. The group asks candidates for state legislature to sign a pledge to support an agenda called America’s Goals. The document maps out specific legislation that the Future Now Fund will promote. It’s a wish-list of progressive ideals and covers almost every topic in the political debate from taxing to energy to policing. In other words, it’s an opposition researcher’s dream.

I wrote about this pledge in the 2018 election when it was floating around Democratic campaigns. It’s way too detailed and commits candidates to policies that may be out of sync with a significant portion of their constituents. The House Republicans pulled it out again this year because once you sign one of those pledges, you’ve signed it forever. This year, they’re hitting Democrats on Defunding the Police. The pledge obviously doesn’t say that specifically and lots of candidates signed it two years ago, long before George Floyd’s death spawned the slogan. For campaign purposes, it’s still relevant today.

However, what Democrats say it says and what Republicans say it says are open to interpretation. Future Now has a section that calls for reallocation of law enforcement funds. The GOP has seized on that line and others to say Democrats are anti-police and sheriffs, despite denials by Democrats.

What Republicans are really trying to do, from the president on down, is make the closing argument of the election about law and order. The Future Now Fund has aided them in their effort and candidates who signed the pledge are dupes in the process. The political conversation this week in #NCPOL is now on the GOP’s turf.

Which gets back to one of my principle pieces of advice to candidates: Don’t sign any pledge. The GOP lost control of its message when members signed the Taxpayers Protection Pledge that promised no new taxes under any circumstances. Like Future Fund, Grover Norquist’s group would provide money and resource to candidates who signed. However, GOP fortunes changed when members broke the pledge, even for good reason, and Norquist’s organization attacked incumbents, costing several Republicans their seats in GOP primaries.  

So don’t sign pledges, especially ones that have commitments to multiple policies or specific legislation. The America’s Goals pledge is one of the worst I’ve seen. It gives the GOP ammo to distort all sorts of issues to use against Democrats. Defund the Police is now the rallying cry of both the left as an aspiration and of the right as a campaign bludgeon. Democrats should prepare for the attack ads.

Read my lips: Don’t sign pledges.

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