First of all, I want to give the tip of the hat to Joe Steffen for noticing this. Admittedly, he was skeptical of the very first line – and so was I – but I don’t perceive that Joe Steffen and Larry Hogan are on each other’s Christmas card lists so I wanted to read the Hogan op-ed for myself. Granted, I was floored enough to ask “really?” in reaction to Joe’s Facebook post.
Obviously I have some comments, but I think this lays out where the Hogan campaign is going – a populist assault on the Annapolis “establishment.” Yet Hogan isn’t exactly an outsider to that clique because he was Secretary of Appointments under Bob Ehrlich, and deferred a 2010 gubernatorial run in order to clear the way for the “establishment” choice in Bob Ehrlich. I find that a mixed message based on the messenger.
Having said that, though, a continuance of the ongoing criticism of the current majority party from Change Maryland since its 2011 inception wouldn’t be a bad thing. The trick will be fleshing out the alternative, and Hogan’s “Third Way” speaks to revisions in the way we govern ourselves through inclusiveness, transparency, and efficiency. In that latter realm he actually covers many of the same points Ron George has brought up with his campaign promise of auditing the state government.
Hogan concludes with a promise of “a renewed focus on building Maryland’s private sector and business climate.” I would hope that would be the first priority, not a throwaway line at the end of an op-ed.
But I think the parts of Hogan’s op-ed which bother conservatives in Maryland the most are the invocation of Bill Clinton as a model and the implication that we need a Clinton-esque “Third Way.” Admittedly, Hogan seems to be basing his campaign on the populist appeal of being “bipartisan,” always stressing that a large number of Democrats and independents support Change Maryland. There’s no doubt we need at least some of each to win since the majority of Maryland voters haven’t yet seen the folly of being so heavily registered with a majority party which places their pursuit of power over the needs of the average Marylander, thereby regularly voting for that legislative majority against their self-interest.
Yet Hogan’s Clinton “Third Way” invocation bears the reminder that many of his signature achievements such as welfare reform, federal budgets with a modest surplus, and overall prosperity came from the period where he dealt with the Gingrich-led Republican Congress which dragged him kicking and screaming into enacting these changes. Left to his own devices and a Democratic majority in Congress, we would have had massive budget deficits and Hillarycare, since that’s the path we were on until the Contract With America and the 1994 midterms interceded. Bill Clinton also reaped the benefits from a natural economic recovery after the recession of 1990-91, with unemployment peaking in mid-1992.
The question, then, is whether a “Third Way” is possible in Maryland, or even desirable. As Change Maryland has shown, the progressives who run this state are bereft of ideas which don’t involve tax increases, more power concentrated in Annapolis, deprivation of personal liberty, or some combination of the three. I’d be more inclined to follow the conservative alternative than “attempt to synthesize what some regarded as the best ideas of the left and the right” because the left, in my humble opinion, has nothing which can be considered a “best idea.” We’ve tried their way at both the state and (arguably) a national level since 2007 and we see where we are.
Over the next week we will hopefully get more of a glimpse behind the curtain of a Hogan administration, but based on initial rhetoric those who really wish to change Maryland for the better could be a little disappointed. Hopefully my initial impression is misplaced.