The Maryland Model (part two)

In part one I related the Maryland Model in its current state to the 2012 campaign, particularly when considering the battle to repeal the in-state tuition for illegal aliens passed last year by the General Assembly. The bill was petitioned to referendum as opponents turned the trick for the first time in over twenty years in Maryland.

As you should recall, I distilled the idea behind the Colorado Model liberal Democrats used to take over that state into four simpler M words: money, message, media, and mobilization. In this part I assess the overall shape conservatives here in Maryland exist in regarding these four issues – and we definitely need to do some work!

In my first part I also stated the belief that the forces behind upholding the in-state tuition bill will easily raise the $10 million they’re looking for in order to get out their propaganda. So where do conservatives go for money?

The monetary advantages statists have created are many, but generally fall into two areas:

  • A multitude of foundations and special interest groups which solicit contributions, funneling some directly to politicians but far more to political action committees and lobbyists who do the dirty work in Annapolis.
  • Unions set the rules to collect dues – or dubious ‘service fees’ – from members, contributing the amount raised to politicians and PACs which may not necessarily represent the best interests of their rank-and-file.

In either case, they have gamed the system to create a self-perpetuating machine where the long arm of government extorts from the many to enrich the well-connected few. Meanwhile, the Maryland Republican Party has to relocate because their rent was too damn high and the party was thousands in debt.

That’s not to say there aren’t some lone voices in the wilderness who donate to conservative causes, but business groups tend to hedge their bets and hand over money to those who they believe can be of assistance in either party, regardless of whether they’re otherwise staunch conservatives or far-left loonies. A cursory search of the nearly 300 PACs in Maryland revealed just three which could be considered allied to our cause: Blue Crab Conservatives PAC, Liberty PAC, and New Day MD PAC. (Of course there are probably others; as I said this was a cursory search. I don’t think anything that starts with “International Brotherhood” or has “local” in it is going to be on our side, though.) Between the three I found they raised less than $15,000 in the 2007-10 cycle – the first numbers for this cycle will be due later this month. A fourth PAC, Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland PAC, should record its first numbers this year as well.

(Note that I don’t count a number of issue-oriented PACs which conservatives might identify with, such as those with pro-life groups, those combating gun control measures, and so forth. We can certainly work with them on occasion, but like business groups, single-issue PACs sometimes work against us on other important issues by supporting more moderate or even liberal officeseekers.)

Unfortunately, our side doesn’t have the means to coerce money out of hapless workers like a union does, unless workers want to take the time and trouble to assert their Beck rights to paycheck protection. So it would be up to us – we who are already overtaxed, over-regulated, and otherwise harassed by the overarching arm of government – to come up with the difference. But they don’t call money the mother’s milk of politics for nothing.

Next I’d like to discuss the state of our message. Obviously I don’t have access to most of the vast amount of polling out there, but I’ve found the Gonzales Poll that I cited Monday is a pretty good indicator for issue trends. Over the last 18 months they’ve taken three surveys which I’m going to use to take the temperature of Maryland’s voters, with the tracking of trends possible on a few issues.

  • Over the last eighteen months, Barack Obama has retreated from a 13-point advantage on favorability/unfavorability (51-38) to a statistically insignificant 2% margin (49-47). We’re not quite to the point that we can tie Democrats and liberals (but as for elected officials I repeat myself) to the anchor of Barack Obama – but we are edging closer.
  • Martin O’Malley jumped from 48% to 52% approval; however, last January he was up at 58 percent. So the trend is downward, and I think he can be tied to the economic failures of Obama along with stressing his eagerness to raise taxes. However, that approach has some peril because there is an element of the state which feels taxes need to be raised to address the budgetary issues we have (see the October 2011 survey.) That group needs some education first.
  • A plurality of Free State residents now feel the state is on the wrong track for the first time in recent surveys, and that “right track” number is only 57% among Democrats – those who one may think have their version of Nirvana with our current state and federal leadership. We need to see what they believe is the problem and just how useful that knowledge may be to us.
  • The death penalty number is strongly on our side (a 56-36 majority favors keeping it) as is a smaller majority for overturning the DREAM Act (51-47 to overturn.) But we’re losing on gun control by a 45-24 margin who wish to see tougher gun laws. That anti-Second Amendment margin mainly comes from the black community because whites are about evenly split.
  • The trend on gay marriage is also in our favor, going from a 51-44 majority favoring it last January to a 49-48 plurality against it in their October survey. Yet a 62-34 majority was fine with civil unions, based on the January survey, so it’s likely that particular majority still holds.

We have the drumbeat of political correctness beaten into our heads daily, so this benchmark on key issues is where we have to start from in both countering the trends against us and hammering home the right message in the areas where we’re beginning to make a dent.

But how does one do it when the media is stacked against us?

Obviously a newspaper can make the claim that it has a bipartisan record on endorsements as proof that they’re unbiased. Yet most papers tend to endorse incumbents because they have a record and news outlets have an idea what they’ll do in office – unfortunately these entrenched politicians seem to drift more to the left the longer they linger in office.

More importantly, though, is the bias shown in coverage and tenor of stories featured on the media outlet. Words and pictures mean things, and it doesn’t take much editing to slant that which is said and written to make someone look bad. Controlling the narrative is power, and Big Media isn’t about to give that up without a fight.

So we have to fight. In essence, we need to do two things:

  • Be the alternative eyes and ears for a mainstream media which refuses to see and hear that which is really going on, and;
  • Create our own echo chamber in an attempt to put out the correct messaging.

I don’t care how much the liberals complain about the so-called echo chamber we have nationally. FOX News, talk radio, and a smattering of print media doesn’t control the message in this nation. Similarly, a collection of conservative talk radio shows and stations and bloggers around the state is no echo chamber.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t try, though, particularly with the first point. Take as an example a pet project of mine, the monoblogue Accountability Project. It’s a labor of love, since no one is paying me for the hours of research and compilation I do in order to put the project together. But the record needs to be shown – liberals can spend as much time and money as they want to say what they will, but their voting record shows the truth about their intentions.

If more people took the time and followed their passion for getting out the truth – like Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild on PlanMaryland or Baltimore County GOP Chair Steve Kolbe, who found out about the tax woes of one of the members of our state’s Redistricting Commission before testifying against their latest gerrymandering scheme – our side would leave the media no choice but to pay attention.

But the key is mobilization, expressed in both letting our representatives know what’s expected of them and getting out the vote.

If our elected representatives don’t hear from us and allow the other side to control the narrative, it may begin to feel very lonely standing out on the island of conservative principles feeling that everyone else has drifted away. Obviously people chastise elected officials for voting the wrong way, but how often do they get an ‘attaboy’ for doing the right thing?

And there’s that voting thing. Let’s assume for the sake of this argument that registered Republican = conservative voter.

On the “about” page for the Constitutional Conservatives for Maryland PAC, they point out the following facts:

After the 2010 election several Constitutionally minded conservative activists sat down together and looked at a political analysis done on the election. We found the following:     

2 races were lost by less than 30 votes.

3 races were lost by less than 300 votes.

3 races were lost by 900.

1 race was lost by a little more than 1000. (Emphasis in original.)

Let’s take two Maryland Senate races for examples. In my District 38, Jim Mathias won by 640 votes out of over 46,000 cast while in District 3 incumbent Alex Mooney lost by 1,044 votes out of a little over 44,000 cast. Those two seats were held by Republicans and flipped to Democrats – overall the state GOP lost two Senate seats of their already-paltry fourteen.

Would more money behind Alex Mooney in District 3 and Michael James in District 38 have helped? Certainly. But let’s look at two counties’ results in the District 38 race. (This is easiest for comparison’s sake because each county lies wholly within the district.)

In Worcester County, 13,900 registered Republicans delivered 10,160 votes for Michael James – that’s 73.1 percent.

In Somerset County, 4,331 registered Republicans gathered 3,783 votes for Michael James, or 87.3 percent.

Granted, Jim Mathias is popular in Worcester County since he served as Ocean City mayor for a decade. But had 80% of Worcester GOP voters pulled the lever for our candidate (still less of a percentage than Somerset County provided) Michael James would have prevailed by several hundred votes. That’s the difference turnout can make, particularly on the GOP side. Mathias won with just 51.4% of Democrats in Somerset and 71.3% of the Democratic vote from Worcester County (the only county of the three in the district that he carried.) James didn’t even have to carry Worcester County – which is also his home county – he  just needed to do well enough there to prevent Mathias from making up for his losses elsewhere. In that instance, he was let down by Worcester Republicans. Conversely, had 70% of Democrats turned out for Mathias down in Somerset County it wouldn’t have been close on election night. Thus, we ignore conservative Democrats at our peril.

Remember, there are only nine counties in Maryland where Republicans are at least a plurality of the voters and none of them are in the top five in voting population, which covers about 2/3 of the nearly 3.5 million registered voters in our state. (Harford County, with just over 150,000 registered voters, is the largest GOP plurality county but only ranks sixth largest in voter registration.)

In order to have any shot at a statewide office, we need to both turn out the Republican base in droves and appeal to a large percentage of unaffiliated voters while enlisting conservative Democrats to the cause. It’s my belief that Ronald Reagan wasn’t an anamoly – an unabashed conservative can win Maryland with the right combination of money, message, media, and motivation.

While skeptics point out that the last Republican to win statewide office was the moderate Bob Ehrlich, he didn’t campaign as a moderate. Instead, he campaigned on a agenda of change from the liberal Glendening administration.

Trust me, Maryland needs a change more than ever. In part three, I’ll look at one action plan for taking up the pro-liberty mantle which just might work.