Bridging the gap

Sitting here and catching up from what was an extremely busy week (with next week promising more of the same) I had something of an “aha!” moment – not to be confused with the ’80s pop band by the way – where two seemingly disparate pieces of information just clicked together.

Let’s examine piece number one, shall we? For days (or is it months, or years? I sense a continuing theme here) Maryland Republicans have been divided into a number of camps, tribes which rarely come together except on a small handful of issues. In the last year, I think resistance to Martin O’Malley’s draconian Second Amendment upheaval (legally and laughingly officially known as the Firearm Safety Act of 2013) was about the only issue drawing universal resistance from Republicans, and even then they parted on how best to fight its enactment, whether through the court system of via referendum. In the end, the court system won out but, as it stands, in a month the law will take effect.

In the meantime, we couldn’t even get the GOP to vote as a group against Martin O’Malley’s bloated budget – yet we call ourselves the party of fiscal responsibility? I understand our alternative budget is DOA in the General Assembly, but at least put up a united front against O’Malley’s principles.

The long introduction I just completed leads me into an Examiner post by J. Doug Gill, where he takes a long look at how the party has been divided since the Ehrlich era of 2003-07.  This “bare knuckle brawl for irrelevancy” makes a number of valid points, although I don’t agree with its somewhat pessimistic outlook for the future. As Gill notes:

Any citizen of Maryland who has had it up to their well-spelunked pockets wants a strong, vibrant and relevant opposition party – and there are untold numbers who don’t care if it’s the Republican Party, the Libertarian Party, or the Tupperware Party.

The sooner some entity – any entity – sorts itself out and provides a credible opposition to the Democrats the better for all of us – including our friends on the left whose bank accounts are just as empty as ours – well, save for the union leaders and cronies and appointees, and, well, you get the picture…

But right now, and in its current incarnation, the only thing the Maryland Republican Party has learned from history is that they never learn anything from history.

Yet it’s not just about credible opposition – it’s also about creating a choice. This is something the majority party won’t do.

There was something about this Ballotpedia report which caught my eye. See if you can spot it, too – I’ll give you a moment and even put in a page break for the fun of it.

If nothing else, this study seems to indicate that Republicans are the party of spirited debate and sometimes bitter dissension about the performance of their current officeholders. Seven of the ten most competitive primaries in the country involved Republicans.

On the other hand, all of the top five least competitive primaries were Democratic ones, and three of them were in Maryland! Granted, the opposition was of the sort which seems to file for a ballot space every two years but do little actual campaigning, but one had to ask: is the Democratic party that much in lockstep?

(Bear in mind, however, that these were challenges to incumbents and do not reflect opposition primaries – in fact, while First District Congressman Andy Harris did not draw a primary challenge on the GOP side in 2012, the Democrats’ race came down to absentees before finally being won by Wendy Rosen over John LaFerla.)

So when we look at a spirited contest such as the District 36 Senate (and soon to be Delegate) selection process, it’s helpful to keep some perspective on what the race means overall. In that race we will likely agree with the winner on 80 to 90 percent of what he advocates as opposed to his 2014 Democrat opposition – and trust me, there will be one. I mean, I could go through my monoblogue Accountability Project and pick out votes where either Steve Hershey or Michael Smigiel ran afoul of my wishes, but in general either would hopefully stand on guard against the encroachment of the Annapolis tyranny against the citizens of the district.

On the other hand, to me there was a real, honest-to-goodness difference in philosophies between contenders for intraparty races such as for National Committeewoman or for party Chair. Those are the places for spirited debate, passion, and questioning of the contenders. It was even true regarding the question of how best to oppose SB281. (Somehow that seems to be missing from the Democrat Party, or at least we don’t hear as much about it.)

There’s almost a complicity of silence within our political opposition, one aided by the media in our state. Surely not all Democrats voted for giving in-state tuition to illegal aliens or legalizing gay marriage but you rarely heard about their opposition, and usually those who spoke up were marginalized. Those Democrats can become part of the silent majority we need to steer this state in the correct direction, as they’re part of the fed up bloc typified in a group like Change Maryland – indeed, the state requires a change.

I know a large number of people in the Maryland GOP use these incidents like the District 36 race or the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance controversy to serve as surrogates for their agenda, whether it be to serve the so-called “establishment” or pull the party further toward a pro-liberty stance. I definitely come down on the latter side, but continually remind myself there’s a far greater opposition sitting there enjoying our so-called self-destruction.

But even if it’s embodied in the ineffective Martin O’Malley or his feckless sidekick Anthony Brown, the other side has a leader to set the agenda and the tone for the argument. Our 2014 nominees up and down the ballot have to not only stand in opposition to what’s been done to this fair state by the incompetence of the last eight years (and arguably far longer given the decades of Democratic dominance of the General Assembly) but show the leadership to engage the opposition on our own terms. Ronald Reagan was that sort of leader, Bob Ehrlich not so much.

We have the right agenda, so now the job is to secure the right results. Debate and discuss all you want, but also don’t be afraid to point out the other side brooks no dissent.

I don’t do lockstep. Do you? But I also choose my battles carefully, and that’s the area in which the Maryland GOP needs the biggest improvement.

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