Ducking the question
In certain quarters of the Maryland GOP, a video is being shared – one that’s less than flattering to candidate Larry Hogan. It was done by a gentleman named John Lofton.
Biographically, John Lofton is a journalist of some repute, including a stint as editor of an RNC newsletter during the Nixon era and jobs as a syndicated columnist as well as op-ed writer for the Washington Times in its infancy. He’s now Communications Director of the Institute on the Constitution (IOTC), and perhaps one of the quirkier, if God-fearing, people in the state. This video illustrates the point. As for the state of the GOP these days, Lofton writes that “(b)eing a Republican is not a disease; it is a choice – a very bad choice, but a choice nonetheless.” His other working title is the director of the God and Government Project, billed as “an outreach mission” of the IOTC.
Yet on the way to a Republican coronation, in a race where at least one supporter feels the other candidates should drop out, Larry Hogan stumbled over what was a simple philosophical question posed by Lofton: what is the purpose of government? Admittedly, I might have, too, although when asked a second time about the role of government the change in terms may have helped me understand what he was driving at. Instead, the Lofton-Hogan conversation came to an end and has not been restarted despite what Lofton calls repeated efforts to conclude what John calls “possibly the shortest interview of my career.”
So while blogger Jeff Quinton saw Larry’s supporters as perhaps a little thin-skinned, and Richard Cross took time to note that Lofton, indeed, has some views which could charitably be considered as somewhat outside the mainstream of thought, it fell on some of the strongest Hogan backers to shoot the messenger and blame the spread of the video on Charles Lollar supporters, a group which Red Maryland Radio called “Facebook warriors.” On Thursday’s show co-host Greg Kline assessed it this way, part of a conversation during the show’s first segment:
(John Lofton) is one of these guys who’s, you know, Christian nation – his answer to the question, by the way, is the purpose of the government is to serve God, that’s the answer he was looking for. And because this interview got cut off, and Larry Hogan – I think you can hear, even in that clip, I think he realized ‘what am I doing here’…
…he gets interviewed all the time and doesn’t get that question very often.
That may be true, but the question has validity – regardless of its source or the answer the questioner was looking for – because voters aren’t as familiar with Larry’s stand on all the issues. One weakness of a candidate who comes from a non-political background is that we can’t tell political philosophy based on voting records or how he or she has governed in smaller jurisdictions, which on the GOP side covers Ron George and David Craig, respectively. This is tempered somewhat in the cases of Charles Lollar and even Brian Vaeth by their recent unsuccessful runs for office, but aside from an abortive 2010 run for governor, Larry Hogan last completed a campaign 22 years ago – in politics, that’s a lifetime. (To put this in context, that was the election cycle just before the Contract With America.) That’s not to say political experience is a requirement, but without it a candidate should take pains to reveal to voters where he stands.
Yet there’s a second aspect to this. If the situation were reversed, and Anthony Brown similarly blew off an interviewer asking a “crazy” question, most on our side would be caterwauling (and rightfully so) about ducking the tough questions in order to maintain spin control. On the other hand, Larry Hogan has thus far run one of the most non-specific campaigns in recent memory. I want to believe that Larry will be different, but we all see what happened the last time someone ran on a “change” platform – millions have been disappointed with the changes which were made. And when he’s been given the forum to expand on his plans, he’s taken a pass or simply refused to answer the question.
I’ll leave aside my opinion that Larry should have gotten into the race sooner as well as the strange itinerary which has had him miss certain key events. But let’s look at how other candidates have addressed key issues.
Both David Craig and Charles Lollar made whistle-stop tours, engaging voters at several stops along the way. (This is from Craig’s stop in Salisbury last June. Unfortunately my outside job precluded seeing Lollar on his September tour here.) Meanwhile, Ron George eschewed the bus tour but released a multi-point agenda of proposals shortly after he announced.
Some may say that gives the other side ammunition to pick apart certain pieces of the candidate’s platform, but in looking at the Democratic contenders I see no shortage of specific proposals from them. We certainly don’t agree with most of them because they’re not going to be in the best interest of Maryland voters, but at least we have somthing concrete to debate on a philosophical basis. This is lacking from Larry Hogan thus far, and it bothers me because I like to know where those seeking office stand. Ducking a legitimate question and calling it “crazy” didn’t help because I’d also like to know how candidates feel about the role of government.
Finally, I have one statement about all this fallout, charges, and countercharges.
On June 25th someone will emerge from the chaos of our Republican primary with the nomination for governor. And unless a candidate or two drops out before the primary, the chances are pretty good that the victor will only have a plurality of the vote. If Bob Ehrlich suffered in 2010 from the disinterest of the 1/4 of GOP primary voters who backed Brian Murphy, can you imagine the headwinds our candidate will have when 60% or so supported someone else?
Say what you will about Democrats – once the primaries are over, they seem to quickly get on board with their winner. It’s likely we will have the situation I described above, so the underlying thought all candidates should have is how to get those who supported the opposition behind them in a state of unity. Having Lollarites at war with the Hoganistas in a show of junior-high style personal attacks on supporters’ weight and brushes with the law, with the Craigsters and Bygeorges looking on hoping to gain advantage, is no way to run a party.
You may not like the supporters of the other guy, but just remember who the real enemy is. Hint: it’s the guys on the other team making this a less Free State.