Announcing: the 2019 monoblogue Accountability Project – Delaware Edition

For the third time, I have graded all the legislators in the Delaware General Assembly based on their voting patterns on a number of key issues. The final product can be found in its usual sidebar location or through this direct link.

This year is a little different as I have decided to do an interim edition given there were enough bills of interest with divided votes to have 25 scoring opportunities. (Spoiler alert: way too many were not taken advantage of; however, my average scores in both chambers were up slightly this year.)

Without getting too much into it – after all, I want my friends in the First State to read and share the information – it was another discouraging session for the Delaware General Assembly. The nanny state and Trump Derangement Syndrome were out in full force this session, certainly driven in large part by a number of new faces in both bodies.

But because of the mix of bills I used, the partisan divide narrowed significantly this year, as both parties had their highest aggregate score ever but Democrats increased theirs at a faster pace.

And if you were sharp-eyed last night, you would have noticed I did the usual “soft opening” by updating the widget before this post was finished and set to be placed up at this early hour.

So, Delaware, here is the voting guide you need – use it wisely in considering which members need primary opponents. (Hint: pretty much all of them.) If you want to change the state in the right direction it’s a good place to start.

Beginning from my little corner

There are some who will likely appreciate the symbolism in this post.

I’m standing in Maryland but pretty much everything you see in the photo beyond the fence is Delaware.

On Friday I took a little side trip on my way home. I’ve passed by this place a few times over the years, but since I’ve moved to the First State I drive by this monument every day on my way to work. But until the other day I’d never stopped to look at it despite its historical significance.

The plaque explains the significance of the monument.

On my way into work one day it dawned on me that the monument is the perfect symbol of a new beginning, a staking out of a starting point and a redirection for this site. For many years I’ve been known as a Maryland-centric political blogger, but since I left the political game as a participant I had ceded the field to others who have done their level best to monetize their work and proclaim themselves as some sort of kingmaker in a Republican governor’s office. And that’s fine, more power to them – they live closer to the seat of power and apparently have to time to invest in those activities.

While I don’t have the utmost in time, in scanning the situation here in the First State I’ve found that there aren’t any active conservative blogs here. (If there are, they are pretty well hidden.) Truth be told, there aren’t a whole lot of liberal ones either but they do exist and I can’t abide that sort of situation. It’s something which needed to be addressed, so I will make up the hedge for the time being – assistance is encouraged!

So here I begin, almost literally from square one because I don’t yet know the players aside from studying the voting records for the Delaware General Assembly for the last couple years. (More on that in a bit.) The way I look at it is that I have staked out this corner as a beginning spot. Yes, it’s symbolic but in actuality I don’t live all that far from this point. (I think as the crow flies it’s about 5 1/2 miles, but I live less than two from the northerly extension of this line.) If you took in the territory between our home and this point, there are probably only a few hundred people living there in scattered homes and one development. And right now that’s probably about all I have to go to war with in this state – a state that is rapidly changing, and not necessarily for the better.

I wonder how they divvy up all this coin. By blind chance, 3/4 of it would fall in Maryland.

I suppose, then, that step one of this process is to announce the 2019 edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project for Delaware, which I finally got to wrap up this weekend. I’ll formally announce it tomorrow morning although the soft opening will be this evening once I create the PDF and add the link. (And no, I did not do a Maryland one this year, nor will I. That can be someone else’s baby, maybe some red-colored site.)

I think it’s a start to rally the liberty-lovers in this state, who I’ve found to be really, really, really poorly served by the Delaware GOP. I have more thoughts in mind on a number of First State issues, but this will be the first in what should be a few significant changes regarding this website. Stay tuned.

A subtle but important change

I don’t know how many of you have ever noticed my tagline that’s been up pretty much since this website came online back in 2005, but it’s the part that said some variant of “news and views from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.” Well, today’s post is one of the last from the Eastern Shore as my wife and I have finally bought a home in the First State. (So I’ve changed it.)

With the change comes a change in emphasis. I’ve always had kind of a state-based focus, but after a little bit of study and being in office it became apparent that the Eastern Shore is indeed the shithouse of Maryland politics. For the most part, our needs are ignored by the state of Maryland simply because there’s not enough voters on the Shore to make a big difference. We on the Shore lay some claim to 12 out of 141 members of the Maryland General Assembly and 4 of 47 Senators in the Maryland Senate, which means that our desires are pretty much subordinated by any one of a half-dozen or so individual counties on the other side of the Bay.

And even when we have a governor who belongs to the same political party as the plurality of the Eastern Shore – where five of the nine counties lean Republican and the other four have registration numbers within striking distance – the desires of this region rarely pass muster. At best, they are watered down; at worst, things we oppose become law without Larry Hogan’s signature or a veto – even when a veto assures current law remains in force for another eight to nine months before the next year’s session and the inevitable override. It’s shameful that longheld local GOP priorities often get short shrift in Annapolis, and it’s doubtful that any change back to the Democrats will help. (For example, don’t be fooled by the moderate facade Peter Franchot’s assuming for his nascent gubernatorial run; he told me all I needed to know with his statement about Alabama.)

On the other hand, while Sussex County is but about 1/4 of Delaware’s population, it’s the fastest-growing county of the three in Delaware. And if I really had the desire to get down in the weeds of local and state politics moreso than my monoblogue Accountability Project and the occasional foray into interesting issues such as the right-to-work battle that ended early last year, I have an election coming up where all 41 members of the Delaware General Assembly, half their 21-member Senate, and Governor John Carney are all on the ballot for election.

It’s also worth remembering why I began the Delaware edition of my Accountability Project – since I was working for a decent-sized homebuilder at the time and I noticed that well over half its clientele was coming from other nearby states (including Maryland) I realized that keeping Delaware attractive was good for business and affected my paycheck. Of course, now the situation is reversed somewhat since I work here in Maryland, but that business sinks or swims more on other factors where ineffective government doesn’t affect it quite as much. And, frankly, I need a new horizon anyway. (Even more frankly, from what I’ve seen about the Delaware Republican Party it makes Maryland’s look professional – and that’s a very low bar to set. I think I’ll register with the Constitution Party.)

So I’m departing the Maryland political scene for the most part, a move begun by my resignation from the Central Committee three years ago and hastened by our house search. It’s time for someone else to take the reins, or those reins can lay on the ground and be trampled into the mud. I guess that depends on just who cares.

Odds and ends number 95

Back with bloggy goodness in bite-sized chunks of a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Let’s see what the e-mail bag has in store.

A pro-life concern

Political e-mail is often chock full of hyperbole, but I found a recent e-mail from the folks at the Maryland Pro-Life Alliance PAC interesting – is there really a renewed pro-abortion push here? They call it a “political attack group,” a 501 (c)(4) which “will be able to take massive checks from outside Maryland starting from Day 1.” But I didn’t find any news story on the subject, which makes it sound like just so much hype.

To me, theirs is the kind of e-mail that sets back the cause. Don’t just tell me there’s an AP story, give me a link – for all I know this was three years ago. It’s bad enough that a group with less than $1,000 in the bank, and a group that didn’t spend a dime on candidates in the 2018 election, is asking for money to counter this phantom threat.

More bad news for Maryland business

The headline of a Maryland Public Policy Institute business climate study made it sound like businesses are becoming less optimistic about business conditions in the state overall, yet they remain relatively positive.

But buried in the remaining information was an interesting dichotomy between businesses along the I-95 corridor, where companies believing the state was business-friendly prevailed by a 49-16 average margin, and outstate companies which only deemed the state business-friendly by a 39-35 count. Given that the overall mark was 46-19, it’s apparent that the outstate entities were but a small portion of the survey – probably no more than 15%. However, that’s 100% of the issue here on Delmarva.

Add to this the war on plastic – which is in the process of having the good guys lose in Delaware – as well as the laughable job creation numbers proponents of the maglev boondoggle are touting, and we may have seen an economic peak on Delmarva until people with real sanity are placed back in government, at least in the view of the MPPI.

But their annual magnum opus is the Annapolis Report, which grades the Maryland General Assembly on its work for the session. If they were a college student, the MGA would be on academic probation.

The Democrats’ deplorable problem

For decades the prevailing belief was that Republicans were for the business man while Democrats were for the working man. In 2016, however, that philosophy was turned on its head as thousands and thousands of union workers ignored their Big Labor bosses who backed Hillary Clinton and pulled the lever for Donald Trump, enabling him to win in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

But, as David Catron recently argued in The American Spectator, the Democrats who think those voters are the key to 2020 victory are barking up the wrong tree. He contends:

(S)upporting Trump simply isn’t the done thing in polite society. To do so is to risk loss of social status – if not outright ostracism – and open conflict with friends or family. Trump supporters mislead pollsters or simply refuse to answer their questions pursuant to similar psychological and social incentives. All of which leads to a lot of confusion concerning who it is that supports President Trump and precisely why. This, in turn, renders it very difficult for round heel politicians like Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren to pander to “working class” voters they badly need to “win back” to the Democratic fold in the 2020 election cycle.

David Catron, “Why the Dems Will Never Win Back Trump Voters,” The American Spectator, June 24, 2019.

I’ve talked about this a couple times on the radio, and Catron makes the argument as well: I sensed this back in 2016, which is why I did “Bradley effect” updates on the Presidential race. If you believed the actual polls on a state-by-state basis, Hillary Clinton should have had upward of 300 electoral votes. But if you assume the polls underestimated Trump by five points, your blue map becomes a shade of pink that carries The Donald to victory. My last couple “Bradley effect” maps suggested a narrow Trump win so I wasn’t as shocked as I thought I might be when it really happened.

On another deplorable front, the pull of Big Labor doesn’t seem to be as strong as it used to be. I remember writing on this situation for The Patriot Post back in 2014, but even after another half-decade of trying the UAW still can’t get its hooks into an auto plant south of the Mason-Dixon line, failing again to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This latest update comes from my friends at the Capital Research Center.

More on the Presidential sweepstakes

I have a number of different items here.

Let’s start with Erick Erickson, who points out in a brief but concise Resurgent article that Joe Biden’s not a racist – it’s just proof of how far the Democrats have moved the Overton window on that subject.

And if you want bat-crap crazy Democrats, look no further than the Indivisible crowd.

After the recent Democrat debates, the Astroturf group polled its followers and found that their preferred candidates didn’t line up with the ones on top of the mainstream polls:

We asked Indivisibles to identify which candidates they are considering voting for and which they are definitely not. The results revealed that the historic candidacies of women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates are faring well among the movement and have plenty of room to grow as the field narrows. It also revealed that some of the presumed frontrunners may hit a ceiling with activists, given how many Indivisibles say they aren’t considering them at all.

Indivisible news release, July 2, 2019.

In other words, identity politics is alive and well. “(I)f the election were held today, 35% of people said they would vote for (Elizabeth) Warren and 31% selected (Kamala) Harris,” they said. Compare this to the Morning Consult poll from yesterday (July 16) where Warren and Harris combined for just 27% of the vote, a number that still trailed frontrunner Joe Biden. In fact, those “women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates” only account for about 40% of the vote, trailing those white males in the top 2 slots and scattered among the rest.

I’m not going to sit and do the math, but I daresay that Indivisible isn’t much of a movement when the candidates 66% of their group support can’t even muster half that amount of support in a wider poll.

Who’s really gerrymandering?

This is a fascinating study from the CRC. While the Democrats contend that independent redistricting commissions will best address the issue of gerrymandering (which, of course, only became a problem after the TEA Party wave election of 2010, which got the break of getting to draw districts for this decade), this study suggests the hype from Democrats is overblown.

Two more states – but a bunch to go

If you’re a fan of the Constitution Party, the good news is that they kept ballot access in two states (Arkansas and North Carolina) and their goal is access in 35 states. Maryland will probably not be one of them because their 10,000 signature threshold is daunting for the two minor parties which generally qualify for the ballot, the Green Party and Libertarian Party, let alone a smaller entity such as the CP. In Delaware they need over double their number of registered voters by the end of 2019 to qualify, which seems unlikely unless a concerted effort to flip members of other minor parties occurs.

And last…

You may notice this is the day of Tawes, but there’s no pictorial.

After 13 or 14 years of going, I just lost interest in the event the last few years. And considering this is a pretty much dead year on the election calendar – no 2020 Senate election and not much going on in the Congressional realm – it was not worth taking a day off to go and overpay for food, a little bit of beer, and a crapton of diet Pepsi. Since I’m not an invited guest to the tents where the real action is, I’m happier being home.

To my friends who were there, I hope you had a good time. But it just isn’t that much fun for me anymore.

Hogan takes a pass…on 2020

It’s no surprise that Larry Hogan, the now term-limited governor of our fair state of Maryland, decided to disappoint the #NeverTrump whisperers in the moderate wing of the Republican Party and skip his chance at being cannon fodder for Donald Trump on The Donald’s way to the Republican presidential nomination in 2020. As CNN put it:

“I truly appreciate all of the encouragement I received from people around the nation urging me to consider making a run for President in 2020,” Hogan tweeted Saturday. “However, I will not be a candidate.”

Hogan said that he would instead focus on his second term as governor and his upcoming role chairing the National Governors Association.

“That work is important, and I believe both of those roles will give me the opportunity to make an impact on the direction of my party and our nation,” he added.

“Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan says he won’t challenge Trump in 2020,” Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN, June 1, 2019.

I’m sure Larry won’t be voting for Trump next year given our governor’s track record, and truth be told he’ll have the advantage of a fairly dull campaign year in 2020. Barring a heretofore unexpected vacancy in the U.S. Senate, there are no statewide races on the 2020 docket, and aside from the possibility of a spirited race in a redrawn Sixth Congressional District, the House races will likely be decided in their respective primaries. So Larry won’t have to demean himself by campaigning for any of those icky conservatives – not that he has much in the way of practice.

However, Larry has established an eerie parallel to his abortive 2010 campaign for governor; a campaign that barely got out of the starting block before he pulled the plug, deferring to his old boss Bob Ehrlich. Out of that came Hogan’s Change Maryland organization, which served as a foil to the governorship of Martin O’Malley and paved the way to Hogan’s 2014 victory – a victory he gloats about.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is not a career politician. He spent nearly his entire career as a small businessman. Fed up with high taxes, politics as usual, and decades of a one-party monopoly, he started Change Maryland, the largest non-partisan grassroots citizen organization in state history. In 2014, out-numbered in party registration by more than 2-1, and outspent by more than 5-1, Governor Hogan pulled off the biggest upset in America to become only the second Republican Governor elected in Maryland in 50 years.

Governor Hogan quickly got to work and set an example for the nation, accomplishing what many believed was no longer possible: reaching across the aisle, and working together to achieve real bipartisan, common sense solutions.

As Hogan was taking the hard pass on a 2020 run, he traveled a familiar road in setting up an organization primarily dedicated to keeping his name in the limelight. Dubbed An America United, Hogan is obviously setting this group up to prepare for a centrist run for the GOP nod in 2024 – basically the same lane John Kasich had in 2016 and held prior to that by guys like John McCain and Jon Huntsman. When most of the news glowingly featured on the site comes from the Washington Post, New York Times, or CNN – the farthest right source of his front-page news is the now-defunct home of #NeverTrump establishment Republicans The Weekly Standard – it’s a pretty safe bet that the group is not going to venture too far right of center.

Naturally the group has its goals, expressed in the standard bromides about “bipartisan, common-sense solutions to create more and better jobs, cut taxes, protect the environment, build our infrastructure, and improve education.” Unfortunately, based on his record in Maryland, what he considers “common sense” is just slowing the long-standing drift away from the ideals that made the nation great. After all, he turned his back on creating jobs in the energy industry (private-sector jobs), squandered opportunities to cut taxes further by asking for ever-larger budgets, and contracted the Democrat disease of believing that to “improve education” is to spend much more money on it rather than allowing the billions that’s already there to follow the child.

In 2024 the nation will be in a quandary: either facing an uncertain political future after eight years of Donald Trump or dealing with the backsliding which will be occurring should one of those in the Democrat “clown limousine” be running for re-election. I honestly suspect that’s what Larry is hoping for, knowing that only once in the last 90 years has a Republican president been elected to succeed a fellow Republican (Bush 41 after Reagan.) John McCain in 2008, Gerald Ford – who served as President but was never elected in his own right – in 1976, and Richard Nixon in 1960 were the last three to try, but you have to go back to Herbert Hoover winning in 1928 after Calvin Coolidge chose not to run to find the previous example before the late George H.W. Bush.

(However, the string is even longer for Democrats: the last time a Democrat succeeded a Democrat, aside from death in office, was 1856 as James Buchanan served one term after fellow one-termer Franklin Pierce. To tell you how long ago that was, Pierce in 1852 succeeded the last Whig to be President, Millard Fillmore. Your Presidential tidbit.)

So don’t think Larry is uninterested in the 2020 race. He’s just choosing to bide his time, perhaps believing that America electing a far-left President will allow him to escape the crocodile that will call any Republican “extremist.” But I have news for Larry: even if he became a “blue dog” Democrat to run, he would still be on the menu regardless.

A welcome respite

The sign said Andy Harris was welcome. But how would the crowd feel?

The last time I went to an Andy Harris town hall meeting, it was a time when “Indivisible” passions ran high and the “traveling roadshow” was out in force. One successful re-election for Harris later, the group on Monday was more subdued.

My spot of activity this week didn’t allow me to get to this right away, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I was sort of curious to see if any of his other stops would be controversial and it doesn’t appear they made a splash in the news cycle. And speaking of news cycle, this was a familiar sight.

WBOC wasn’t the only TV station at the event, but they were set up in the lobby when I walked in.

As a matter of fact, had I chose to I could have been on TV myself (on local rival WMDT) but I just didn’t feel like I could answer their questions. My thoughts and recollections are better suited for this space.

After doing it for almost a decade, perhaps Andy has figured this town hall thing out. First of all, you couldn’t help but admire his work in getting a local veteran named George Hornsby the medals and commendations he’d been owed for over fifty years.

Something else that was different (and better) was how the questions were selected. Rather than soliciting index cards for written questions for a moderator (and leaving himself open for the charge of not answering difficult questions) each person had a number given to them and when their number was drawn, they were given the opportunity to stand up and ask their question. In a little over an hour, we got to about 15 people that I wrote down.

And I thought the questions were nicely varied, which made them a little bit difficult to categorize. As a summary and not a blow-by-blow, I think I can take a bit of editorial license and group questions into more broad categories.

The first is a sort of “role of government” track. People had concerns about the direction of the House, and were asking what he could do to assist President Trump. There was a person concerned about robocalls, another who asked about sanctuary cities, and someone else who asked about the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Regarding the direction of the House, Harris just reminded us, “everybody has a vote” each two years. It’s the worst system – except for all the rest, he continued, conceding that the voters wanted divided government. “I try to represent the district,” he added, noting his belief he’s conveying the wishes of the majority of the First District.

Unfortunately, being in the House minority means there’s “not a whole lot” he can do to help Donald Trump, a President he agrees with “90 percent of the time.” One of those cases will be his vote to sustain President Trump’s veto of the rescission of his state of emergency. “My vote will sustain his veto,” said Harris.

One reason he cited was funding for border security. “As a nation you have to control your borders,” he said. Andy also alerted us to the 90% of our heroin that comes across the southern border, not to mention the amount of fentanyl – enough to kill 9 times the population of Maryland from one particular recent seizure – that we stop.

Eventually the conversation on the border led to a question on sanctuary cities, and whether we could cut their funding. Andy told the questioner there was no statutory authority to do so, but having sanctuary cities also “creates a lack of rule of law,” which was something we needed to get back to. I also learned how Andy would handle the DREAMer situation: a “legal pathway” with permanent residency status but no citizenship unless they returned to their home country to start the process there.

All that made the concern about robocalls, which was a concern he agreed with – and even spoke to the committee chair regarding it – rather mundane. It also has an international aspect to it since most originate in foreign countries but spoof domestic numbers.

Harris also agreed the Kavanaugh confirmation was “a spectacle,” although as a member of the House he was but an observer like the rest of us. “In the end, I think the American system worked,” he added.

In a sort of peripheral way, those couple people who were concerned about environmental issues were looking at the government for help, too. One was concerned about garbage, which is a problem in, of all places, the middle of the Pacific. In that case, one of the issues was that China no longer takes our garbage. The reason? We are dirty recyclers: oftentimes the leftover products originally encased within the plastic containers are still present in enough quantity to make recycling less cost-effective. Perhaps a solution is in “waste-to-energy” or chemical recycling.

Their other concern was Bay funding, which President Trump’s budget cut from $73 million to $7 million. The Maryland delegation is working to at worst level-fund it, although if there is a continuing resolution the spending would continue as before, too.

Here Andy brought up one area where he and I part ways: stating that offshore drilling needs the permission of the state, Harris stated his opposition to not only offshore drilling, but offshore testing as well. That is a short-sighted approach, but I think opponents like him are afraid that there’s a vast supply of black gold or natural gas out there. I’m not sure why that’s something to fear, but why not do the testing anyway to verify one way or the other?

A lot of people had guns on their minds. There are “too many guns in this country,” said one questioner. But we have the Second Amendment, which makes us unique among nations.

And guns aren’t necessarily the problem, said Andy. We’re not dealing adequately with the issue in several respects:

  • The celebration of violence in video games, which was even something President Obama spoke about.
  • The lack of control of gangs and drugs. Are laws as enforced as they should be?
  • A decrease in religious observance, which you could also consider a lack of morals if you prefer. (My words, not his.)

And while Baltimore “went after their police force,” they are “allowing young lives to be destroyed” there. And as an homage to Captain Obvious, Harris said “we will never disarm non-law-abiding citizens.”

He had some unkind words about Maryland, too, noting that while the state has universal background checks, they are one of the worst states at reporting mental health issues to the federal government for those checks. Don’t do more gun laws if you’re not enforcing the ones you have, he said: for example, out of the thousands who knowingly stated falsely they didn’t commit a crime – thereby committing perjury on a federal form – only ten of those cases were prosecuted because former AG Eric Holder didn’t make it a priority.

Andy’s opposition certainly had its say, although to their credit they were reasonably non-disruptive. The only exception was a case where two people objected to Andy’s reticence to commit to an hour-long face-to-face meeting with that constituent who disagreed with Andy’s stance against Obamacare. The tension got thick when Andy was accused of anti-Semitism for meeting with a “Holocaust denier” as well as chastised for a visit to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Victor Orban, leader of a “center-right” government. (Harris, a first-generation American whose parents fled Hungary amidst a Communist takeover, leads the Hungarian-American Caucus in Congress.) It’s “pretty repulsive to me” to be called anti-Semitic, Harris countered. But the disruptive pair were not escorted out as cooler heads prevailed.

While Harris objects to Obamacare, it should be pointed out that he’s for several reforms to Medicare Part B – specifically, the area of prescription drugs administered in a physician’s office or hospital where Andy remarked “Medicare has no leverage” to deal with increasing costs. As it stands now, these providers are allowed a 6% surcharge on top of list price reimbursement, as I understand it. (I’ll plead ignorance since I am not on Medicare.) Apparently HHS Secretary Alex Azar has a plan to revise this scheme to account for the reduced price other nations pay to allow these drugs into their market – a gatekeeping system Medicare doesn’t have. Using a weighted average of the prices charged to 12 other leading industrialized nations plus a 30 percent premium is “a pretty good compromise” according to Harris.

I suppose if the drug cost us $10, the weighted average of the 12 was $5, and the 30% premium added $1.50, yeah, there could be some savings. Of course, I have no idea about the actual numbers.

(It should also be mentioned that opioid addiction was brought up in the meeting. His opinion: “It will take a long time to fix,” because the problem isn’t just drug companies or overly aggressive doctors. But no one ever did any studies on how addictive these painkillers could be until much more recently.)

A more significant part of the time was spent by Andy explaining his opposition to H.R. 1, the (so-called) For The People Act. “What part did you object to?” he was asked, answering “why not (send up the provisions) one at a time?” rather than a 400-page bill that’s been amended several times. “We have to stop doing bills like this,” he continued, holding up a copy of the bill that takes up half or more of a ream of paper.

“Really, it’s an incumbent protection plan,” Harris added, and while in that respect he theoretically should favor it, his primary complaint on it was that “it tells states how to conduct their elections.” He wasn’t in favor of public financing of elections and had a problem with its oversight provisions, such as voting in other states (as a former opponent of his was caught doing.)

Yet a GOP amendment making “ballot harvesting” illegal was defeated – its main flaw is allowing anyone to bring in ballots, rather than specifically a family member or guardian. I personally see it as a chain of custody issue, and ironically the same technique that turned the tide in several California House races was the reason North Carolina voters in their Ninth District have an upcoming “do-over” in their race, won on election night in 2018 by a Republican. Ballot harvesting is illegal in North Carolina, precisely because of those chain of custody issues.

One last thing I’ll bring up is the charge Andy often receives about not having empathy or sympathy. “I take care of patients!” he replied. His job is to pay attention and read the bills, and when it comes to health care it’s to maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions and keep insurance affordable. Personally, I just think there are too many people who equate big government with empathy or sympathy but would object to a faith-based solution because it’s “pushing their religion on people.” To those whose god is government, perhaps I’m tired of you pushing your religion on the rest of us. I’d just like to render unto Caesar only what is supposed to be his and not all of my freedom, too.

But a nice lady had her number called shortly after this and told the audience she had dealt with Congressman Harris’s office regarding her mesh implants and thanking him for helping her with the issue. It’s one where the public and physician databases need to be better integrated so that doctors can be better informed with real-time reporting and analysis. “Sunlight solves a lot of problems,” said Andy.

We also talked about suicide, which was a byproduct of the same culture that’s led to so much gun violence. In a nation founded on religious principles, it’s no surprise to me that being religious cuts the risk of suicide in half – at least that’s what Harris claimed. “If we abandon religion, we abandon some of those (founding) principles,” Harris remarked.

I’m certain there were those agnostics in the room who scoffed at that assertion. “There’s a separation of church and state!” they thunder, and if there could be a border wall built between the two that’s a wall they would support 200 percent and have that sucker built a mile high and twice as deep, halfway to God or Gaia or who/whatever they believe in.

In a letter from John Adams to officers in the Massachusetts militia (October 11, 1798) our second President remarked as a close to a longer point, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If you presume that “any other” is the irreligious lot we have now, Adams was probably right and, as a group, they tend to be the ones who want to revamp our founding document.

But I get the idea that our Constitution was Divinely inspired, and as such I like to see us hew to it as best we can. While it does need some modern-day tweaking, including a pruning of the amendments ratified in 1913, the Constitution can continue to serve us well if lawmakers just remember their oath to defend it. I think Andy Harris does a reasonable job of that and I’m glad he stopped by.

So, about those Jeremiah conservatives…

I made an executive decision as I wrote this: an edited (no blockquote) version is crossposted to my book site.

I’ve been meaning to get to this all week and the opportunity has finally arrived. Last week Erick Erickson at The Resurgent did a piece on what he called “Jeremiah 29 conservatives.” In the post, he cites Jeremiah 29:5-7, which is a portion of a letter from Jeremiah to those who were captured and forced to relocate to exile in Babylon. Erickson uses it to springboard to his main point:

There is a growing class of conservatives in the United States who can be considered Jeremiah 29 Conservatives. They have given up on national politics. It has become too ugly, too compromising, too unaligned with their values, and too willing to make compromises with bad government and big government to advance a compromised agenda.

These conservatives are trying to seek the welfare of the cities in which they live, recognizing that it is there they will find their welfare. They want good government and understand the most important fight of the day is the one for their family’s daily well being. Washington, they know, is too far removed from their daily lives and, in their mind, Republicans and conservative institutions in Washington have made too many compromises to be effective.

At the end of the Bush Administration and beginning of the Obama era, thanks oddly enough to the Citizens United case, grassroots groups were springing up around the country to help conservatives down to the local level. There were training sessions for conservative activists on simple things like the best way to write editorials to local papers. They grassroots groups provided tools for local activists to contact their state legislature. They explained how to find when a city council met and how to show up to speak on an issue. They encouraged conservative activists to run for the school board.

As the tea party rose, conservative organizations began focusing more and more on fighting Barack Obama. They abandoned the fights in the states.

Obviously this quote hit home with me given my passion for the TEA Party and its principles. But to a great extent it’s true.

I’ve probably researched the TEA Party more than 99% of the people out there and I found that it was a very unusual phenomenon in that the TEA Party began as a nationwide effort but then decentralized itself to the local level for a time. Think of the TEA Party as three early stages, which I’ll distinguish by their dates: February 27, April 15, and September 12. (All these occurred in 2009.)

The February 27 wave occurred in fewer than 50 cities and was really put together for one purpose: to make a statement about the unwillingness of government to consider solutions other than top-down financial stimulus and increased government control in addressing the Great Recession. Some may have organized this believing it would be a one-time deal, but there was such a success created that thousands of others, helped along by mass media, decided to get in on the action at the local level.

So rather than 40-odd mainly large cities, the April 15 (and later July 4) wave of TEA Parties took place in a thousand cities around the nation, big and small. Each local event had its own flavor, with some rallying around strictly financial and national issues and others departing from that script to address local items or topics dear to social conservatives, particularly those in the pro-life movement. There was no “right” way to do a TEA Party, and part of its appeal was the grassroots organization that didn’t get marching orders from a party or inside-the-Beltway group.

But by the September 12 Taxpayer March on Washington – an event I simply call 9/12 – local groups were being encouraged to join up in a national organization, supposedly to increase the clout of the movement. While some TEA Party groups remained fiercely independent, most others gravitated toward an alliance with organizations such as the Campaign for Liberty or Americans for Prosperity. (The latter is basically what happened to our local TEA Party.) This also coincided with the rise of Tea Party Patriots as an umbrella group, although they weren’t the only one as many states had similar entities.

Once the rallies became less frequent, though, hundreds of TEA Party groups withered on the vine. And many of those individual participants who stuck it out for the first couple years were perhaps made complacent by how easily the political tables were turned in 2010 and figured the movement didn’t need them anymore – they let the most passionate ones soldier on. So by the time 2012 and 2014 rolled around, many of those who believed in the TEA Party early on saw that the movement was no longer locally grassroots but corporate-style Astroturf, and no longer fiercely independent but now the red-headed stepchild of the national Republican Party.

As Erickson might tell it, that’s what happens when outsiders try to get involved in national politics, which is way out of the league of the average person. Most people are more interested in local activism, and (to be honest) if government were as it should be that’s all they would need to deal with.

So today I decided to look again at the Tea Party Patriots’ website as they celebrate their tenth anniversary. In a celebratory op-ed by Jenny Beth Martin – the only one of the three original co-founders of Tea Party Patriots to still be with the group – she cited a number of Washington initiatives as accomplishments of the TEA Party and noted they would continue to fight in the halls of Congress – just like any other lobbying group. They pay lip service to the local groups, but their focus is on stopping socialism on a national level. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s stop pretending they’re a grassroots group, okay?

It’s very sad to think that the TEA Party may have missed its golden opportunity because they lost focus on the local groups. If local needs are addressed, it’s more likely that states will follow and eventually the nation.

I have a suggestion for all this, but I can’t reveal it here – it’s waiting until my book is ready. (That’s called a tease.) Good Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise, look for it April 15.

Why $15 is the wrong fight

I have seen reports all over social media and the “real” media that the Maryland House of Delegates has passed an increase in the minimum wage that will eventually lead it to $15 per hour by 2025. I’m not up on just who is who in the House these days but I presume a 96-44 vote is pretty much party line – there may have been a Democrat who voted against it, but I don’t know and it likely doesn’t matter in the scheme of things because it’s a vetoproof majority and the way Democrats are ramming this through it will be passed at a time when the veto can be overridden in session. (With Larry Hogan’s record, I can no longer say “inevitable veto.”)

It should be pointed out first of all that the “fight for $15” is sort of a misnomer because the raise from the current $10.10 per hour – a rate established last July – to $15 an hour would not be complete until January, 2025. This is a significant change from the original bill, which mandated the raise be in place by July, 2023. (The House bill has been amended while the cross-filed Senate bill remains as it was originally intended, so it works well for comparison.) But since the state began regularly raising its minimum wage in January, 2015, workers have already received a 26.3% bump in four years – well beyond the rate of inflation and a far cry from the normal 2-3% annual raises many workers receive if they are lucky. Whether it takes eight years or ten years, a salary increase of 87.5% for gaining absolutely no skills is far more than the market would naturally allow.

I’ll circle back to that point in a moment, but it’s also worth considering that union workers who have their wage rates tied to a point above the minimum wage will also get a raise. And when workers get a raise, guess who else does?

In today’s climate of dramatic minimum wage increases of 50% or more, unions — predominantly in the service sector — can also directly benefit from minimum wage increases because their members’ pay is less than the new minimum. Take California, for instance, which passed a $15 minimum wage last year. The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) usedCensus Bureau data to estimate that roughly 223,000 union members in the state will receive a direct pay increase by the time the law is fully implemented.

It’s bad news for taxpayers, but a solid investment for unions. A powerful California-based SEIU local spent about $1.6 million to collect the signatures needed to qualify the $15 ballot measure that forced Gov. Jerry Brown to back such a mandate. EPI estimated that California unions can expect a return on investment of roughly $9 million in additional dues per year.

“Why Do Unions Fund The Fight For $15 Minimum Wage? Because They Gain A Financial Windfall In Return,” Ed Rensi, Forbes, January 19, 2017.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Big Labor here in Maryland has similar deals with business owners held hostage to these union contracts.

Now circle back with me if you would and think about who earns minimum wage from a job. Generally they are people just entering the job market or those who don’t develop their skills beyond the point of being barely hireable. My first “real” W-2 job was working in the on-campus dining halls at college, and it was a minimum wage job – just as my roommate who snagged a cushy library job made. Since I was essentially a temporary worker, it didn’t matter to the school that I was making $3.35 an hour to run a dishwasher. And since most of my money went to the local sub shop or to buy the occasional 12-pack when I became legal, I didn’t much worry about it, either. In fact, my first job out of college at a department store was minimum wage – but this college graduate quickly parlayed his degree into a 49% raise when the architectural firm I interviewed with a few weeks earlier offered me a position less than a month after I started working at the store. More skills and a little bit of work experience = higher wages. I created more potential value from my labor.

This is the problem with minimum wage as I see it. Do you think Maryland workers are going to instantly create another 75 cents to a dollar’s worth of value to their employers each hour just because the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 or 2024 to 2025? Of course they won’t – but if a business owner had 20 minimum-wage employees who worked an average of 20 hours a week, it’s an extra $300 or $400 they need to clear.

I’ll grant there’s a bit of merit to the argument that raising the wage creates people with more money to spend, but what are the chances enough people will take their extra money and spend it at the business in question? When the percentage of workers who make minimum wage hovers in the low single-digits, there’s not enough of an impetus for that so-called “extra” money to make much of an impact on the economy at large but, at the same time, it can be devastating to a business that requires a lot of unskilled labor.

There’s also the impact on workers who make slightly to significantly more than minimum wage to consider. They won’t get an automatic raise, but their standard of living declines by the amount that businesses have to raise their prices to cover costs. It may only be an extra percent or two in scattered businesses, but eventually that adds up. Note that amendments to Maryland’s most recent minimum wage bill not only slowed down the increase by 18 months but also scrapped the automatic increase based on inflation – probably to make it an issue for the 2024 or 2026 elections.

I have often said, and will continue to say because it’s true, that the real minimum wage is zero – the amount you make when the job you may have secured when the minimum wage was $8 an hour and you weren’t a significant risk to the employer if you didn’t work out is the job that’s no longer available at $10.10 an hour.

Regardless, it’s all but certain that a minimum wage increase will pass in Maryland this year. The Left needs that victory and many others in order to try and tank the state and national economy for the 2020 election. (Notice the lack of enthusiasm over the 2.9% GDP increase despite the fact it’s our best since 2015 – losing by a fractional .0009% – and close to the first 3% annual calendar year growth rate since 2005. One could argue the Schumer-Pelosi-Trump shutdown may have cost us that 0.1 percent.) Apologists for the Obama economic record (“Analysts have called into question just how much a particular president actually impacts the economy during his tenure”) now expect a recession to hit by the next election (“While the fourth-quarter cooling isn’t quite as extreme as some economists feared, the metric does little to placate existing concerns about a global economic slowdown.”)

But someone believes in magic, as in that people will magically produce more value through an arbitrary wage increase. Cue the pixie dust and unicorns.

Indivisible by zero: a local “Day of Action” in pictures and text

I decided that downtown was a good place to go for lunch today. So I popped into Maya Bella’s, got a slice of pepperoni, chips, and a drink, and strolled down the Plaza because I knew there was a show going on at the other end. At least that’s what I told the three SPD officers who were obviously detailed with the security.

This is what I found:

I took this from about the same general location as the TEA Party shot to follow. For a group claiming 2018 was their “first big victory” I expected more than this.

It’s a nice little crowd, but if you want to model yourself after the TEA Party you may want to step up your protest game. I found my shots of the 2009 Salisbury Tax Day TEA Party awhile back (this one also graces my book website) and it so happens I took it from about the same perspective as the shot above, give or take.

This is a shot from the Salisbury Tax Day TEA Party, April 15, 2009.

For good measure, even though it’s not quite from the same angle, I also have one from the No Ban No Wall Rally in February, 2017.

This came from the No Ban No Wall No Registry Rally held in front of the Government Office Building on February 18, 2017. That was when the anti-Trump movement was still white-hot. (Pun not initially intended, but I decided to keep it.)

In terms of caveats, the TEA Party was held late on a Wednesday afternoon (as opposed to lunchtime) and the No Ban rally was on a Saturday, so the crowd was naturally going to be larger. It also had a counter-protest, which is actually in the foreground of my photo of the event.

So suffice to say today’s group was just a portion of what I like to call the “traveling roadshow.” These are the same folks who go to give Andy Harris a hard time at his town hall meetings – in fact, one speaker today led the group in one of their many chants, “Andy, we’re watching you.”

Addressing the Congressman, that same speaker intoned, “we’re very interested in what you’re doing.” Well, I’m interested in what you are doing, too. Why do you think I showed up?

I moved a little closer so I could make out what the speakers had to say. It wasn’t the best setup. Look closely on the left side and you may notice the lady with the rainbow bag has a genuine “p” hat.
This shot was taken just before I left. I spent about 20-25 minutes listening to a litany of complaints about our “democracy.” “This is what democracy looks like,” said a speaker previous to this one – I think that’s Jared Schablein speaking in the photo, way back by the building.

I thought it was interesting that Indivisible was described by one of the local organizers as run by attorneys in D.C. who used to work for the Obama administration. That’s a point I’m planning on returning to, but the same lady also noted that “we are on offense,” which has been an Indivisible talking point since the election. In fact, they have several of them:

As always, Indivisible has you covered. In this toolkit, you will find a planning meeting agenda, sample roles, a press kit, and more to make your event as successful as possible. Because whose House? Our House! (Emphasis in original.)

The online Indivisible “January 3 Day of Action Organizing Toolkit.”

That, by the way, was another chant they serenaded downtown with at least a couple times: “Whose House? Our House!” Just remember, you only have a 2-year lease.

Another key talking point was the Democrats’ H.R. 1 bill, which was slated to be introduced today (along with articles of impeachment, to no one’s surprise, but that’s a different story.) Redistricting was on Jared Schablein’s mind, but as I brought up on social media with him, the Eastern Shore is going to have to share with someone. And if they feel unrepresented, bear in mind that the last Democrat nominee for Congress from our district also came from across the bridge (and he carried Wicomico in the primary.)

But it wasn’t all talk about H.R. 1. Just like the TEA Party got off on other tangents, the Indivisible rally strayed at times, too. As a prime example, there was some lady speaking on gun control. One thing I found interesting in her remarks was the disparity in concealed carry permits between Maryland (20,000) and Pennsylvania (1.3 million) – all in the difference between being a “may” issue state like Maryland and a “shall” issue state like Pennsylvania. She thought it was a good thing, I beg to differ.

I have one more photo to use from the event.

You know, if the TEA Party used preprinted signs it would be called “Astroturf.” So is this really grassroots or just manipulation of a group of malcontents?

They actually hadn’t handed out many of these signs; in fact, there really weren’t that many signs there. Maybe the threat of rain made the participants decide to keep them at home. So it wasn’t a media-friendly event – I believe the only media person I saw there was Don Rush from Delmarva Public Radio (naturally.) He was taping some “man-on-the-street” interviews with various participants and bystanders, and I was taking photos and notes on my phone.

But the signs bring up a final point. Do a Google search on “indivisible astroturf” and you get about 28,400 results – many of them left-leaning sites denying the claim. On the other hand – and yes, this could be from a much longer history – the search “tea party astroturf” gathers 513,000 results. You can easily find claims about billionaires funding the TEA Party in the New York Times but it takes digging into the far more obscure Capital Research Center website to get an idea of where Indivisible gets its funding. Indivisible is the brainchild of Beltway insiders using standard sources of left-wing funding to try and appear to be a “grassroots” movement. This wasn’t nearly as spontaneous as the TEA Party was, and you can see the proof right here.

My pizza was pretty good. But if you were looking for a day of action today in downtown Salisbury, frankly, there wasn’t much to see. Sorry.

A better minor-league town

This definitely goes in a unique “stack of stuff” but to me it’s also a springboard to a relevant point. Plus it’s a dead week between Christmas and New Year’s so it’s not a political week.

If you go back to post number 2 – number one being the “soft opening” URL placeholder – in this long-running saga of my political thoughts and life in general, you will find it’s related to my hometown baseball team. So it is with this post, as Toledo was named the nation’s top minor league town.

The hometown rag had a good time with this, but if you read the piece you’ll see why Toledo was selected. And it’s worth mentioning something the writer of the original assessment said in the Blade story:

“They took a big risk coming back to downtown when they did, and deserve a lot of credit for the excitement in downtown revitalization,” said Birdwell-Branson, who recently moved to Toledo. “Essentially, it came down to this: Toledo is not Toledo without its Mud Hens or its Walleye.”

“Toledo ranked No. 1 among minor league sports towns”, Mark Monroe, Toledo Blade, December 12, 2018.

Just for context’s sake, Toledo, with its metro area of about 600,000 hardy folk, has two major professional sports teams. Most not under a rock have heard of the Mud Hens baseball team, in large part thanks to a guy best known as Max Klinger, the dress-wearing corporal in the TV series M*A*S*H. (Far fewer know him as Jamie Farr and only real trivia buffs – or Toledo natives – know him as Jameel Farrah, but that’s his real name.) While 507,965 made it out this season, it was a down year for attendance: the Mud Hens’ worst since moving to Fifth Third Field in 2002 and despite winning their first IL West title since 2007. (Perhaps eight losing seasons in a row prior to 2018 dampened enthusiasm.)

It could also be that some of their thunder was stolen by the Walleye, as the hockey team set new attendance records in the 2017-18 season and finished second in attendance in the 27-team ECHL, a league analogous to the AA level in baseball. Had their Huntington Center been larger, it’s likely they would have led the league in attendance as the Walleye averaged 102% of capacity. In 2018 the Walleye season didn’t end until early May when they lost in their division finals – they have won their ECHL division in the regular season four straight seasons – so there was an overlap between the two teams that may have cut the Mud Hens’ attendance.

In the minds of ownership, however, it doesn’t matter if the fans flock to Fifth Third Field or the Huntington Center because both are owned by the same entity: Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club, Inc. (The Walleye are owned by the subsidiary Toledo Arena Sports, Inc. They purchased the former Toledo Storm ECHL hockey franchise in 2007 and put the team on ice, as it were, until the Huntington Center was finished in 2009.) It’s a business entity with an interesting background:

The unusual ownership structure was inaugurated in 1965 when Lucas County formed a nonprofit corporation to buy and manage a team. A volunteer board of directors appointed by the county board of commissioners owns and operates the team, with the county as the ultimate financial benefactor.

“Toledo Mud Hens, Walleye reorganize top management”, Bill Shea, Crain’s Detroit Business, June 15, 2015.

In Toledo, then, Lucas County (Toledo is county seat) owns both the teams and the venues, which are conveniently within blocks of one another in downtown Toledo. Spurred on by government money, the county has also invested in Hensville, a renovation project taking existing adjacent building stock and creating an entertainment center with the ready-made prospect of 7,000 or more fans at an adjacent venue on about 100 nights a year, mainly on weekends in the winter and spring and any night during the summer. (Note this doesn’t count concerts and shows held several nights a year at Huntington.)

Now let’s compare our scenario: the recent (2015) addition of Sussex County, Delaware and Worcester County, Maryland to the existing Salisbury metro area gives it a population of about 390,000, about 2/3 of Toledo’s but spread over a much wider geographic area. This difference, as well as the disparity in levels as the Delmarva Shorebirds are three steps below the Mud Hens, more than likely explains why attendance for the Shorebirds is less than half that of the Mud Hens, barely eclipsing the 200,000 mark in 2018 as an all-time low. Moreover, even if Salisbury had a hockey team, as has been rumored for the past few years, it would probably be at the commensurate level to the Shorebirds, and at least one step below the ECHL.

On that note, the two most likely possibilities for pro hockey in Salisbury are the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), a 10-team league as currently comprised, and the Federal Hockey League (FHL), which has six teams at present. The SPHL is the more stable of the two, and has better-attended games: league average attendance for the SPHL is 2,870 so far this season compared to a puny 1,409 between the six FHL squads – but only two Federal League teams are solidly in a four-figure average; a third is at 1,010 per game.

Unfortunately, the travel scenario for a Salisbury-based SPHL team would be dicey: the league’s closest franchises are in Roanoke, Virginia and Fayetteville, North Carolina and both are just under six-hour trips; moreover, six of the ten teams lie in the Central Time Zone. The most likely way Salisbury could be added to the SPHL would be in a pairing with another expansion team along the East Coast and a switch to a format with two six-team (or three four-team) divisions. On the other hand, while the FHL is somewhat spread out over a geographic area ranging from upstate New York to North Carolina to Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois, Salisbury is within the footprint and the league only schedules games on weekends, with one team generally playing two consecutive nights against the same opponent. Placing an eighth team in the Midwest would allow the league to have two four-team divisions (and possibly even adding a weeknight game within the four-team blocks, expanding the FHL’s current 56-game schedule. The schedule is similar in the SPHL; by comparison the ECHL plays a 72-game season.)

While the lack of a hockey team is a major stumbling block, the bigger issue is a lack of synergy between the two venues because they are several miles apart. And since a downtown location is out of the question for these facilities, the next best scenario to me would be to eventually replace one of the two facilities and move it adjacent to the other. Of course, having just spent millions of dollars of state and county money to repair both facilities as part of renovations requested in part by the Orioles (for Perdue) and a county study (for the WYCC), that’s not happening anytime soon, either.

So we have to make do with what we have. While it won’t necessarily be pedestrian-friendly, there is available land adjacent to both venues that could be developed into further entertainment options. In all honesty, there are pros and cons to development at both locations: the Hobbs Road site has great highway access and open land with infrastructure in place as it’s already annexed to the city. Would it be out of character with the area to have an urban-style development close by Perdue Stadium? Perhaps, plus there’s also the aspect of certain city leaders who seem to want all the entertainment options to be downtown and not develop the outskirts as a competitor.

On the other hand, redevelopment of the Old Mall site would be a welcome lift to that part of Salisbury but it’s not going to happen without a steady stream of events at the Civic Center, and minor league hockey seems to have the same level of fickleness as independent league baseball.

Every town is different, but I think Salisbury is missing out on some opportunities. I’m truly hoping that renovations in progress at Perdue Stadium bring out some of that entertainment district element and the WYCC gets that hockey team tenant to help fill the venue another 30 or so nights a year. It’s probably the best we can do for the immediate future.

Odds and ends number 90

The first real odd or end is writing this post in WordPress 5.0, which is a completely different interface than the editor I’ve been used to for over thirteen years. It was the upgrade that inspired me to change my theme – although the thought that my old theme may become a “legacy” theme crossed my mind as well.

So again we deal with items that take from two sentences to two paragraphs. But there’s one other neat thing about this new product – being block-based makes it easier to add headings, so maybe this is a good place to begin.

MPPI preparing for new GA session

My friends at the Maryland Public Policy Institute have been busy laying the groundwork for a new session of the General Assembly. 

We know that the new year will bring to Maryland a legislative body that, if you can imagine, will lean even further to the left than previous renditions despite the fact the GOP has a modern record of 15 Senators. (Now they are only losing 32-15! Yeah, there’s a cause for celebration.) And while 99-42 in the House of Delegates isn’t as bad as previous terms where Democrats numbered over 100, it’s not good either – especially when they had 50 last time.

(Although, technically the GOP had just 49 at the very end thanks to the departing Meagan Simonaire going where her political home was anyway. By the same token, though, the Democrats stayed at 91 because another departing Delegate, Shane Robinson, switched to the Green Party. Oddly enough, the MGA site acknowledges Simonaire’s change but not Robinson’s. So the final 2015-18 HoD count was 91 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 1 Green.)

So imagine my shock when the Kirwan Commission did what commissions often do and recommended more spending. (We should have had an inkling of that from their preliminary report last year, a time when they begged for extra time to finish their plea for massive extra spending.) Noted MPPI’s release on the Kirwan report:

The Daily Record reports that Kirwan Commission member Kalman Hettleman said at the commission’s Thursday meeting, “($4.4 billion) is a very small amount of money for the near-term years to get about the work that needs to be done.”
 
“Four billion in new spending can only be called ‘a very small amount’ by those who make a career out of spending other peoples’ money,” said Christopher B. Summers, president and chief executive officer of the Institute. “Maryland taxpayers should be concerned by the commission’s recommendations. Our in-depth analysis of the commission’s work finds scant evidence that their recommendations will benefit Maryland children and families, while ample evidence shows that historic school spending increase since 2002 has produced disappointing results.”

MPPI Press Release, December 7, 2018. Link added.

The MPPI has been busy lately, adding their thoughts on the Amazon headquarters situation – thoughts that can be described as common sense on keeping and attracting business. Too bad the General Assembly haughtily laughs at these helpful suggestions. 

But wait – there’s more on schools…

It’s a bit of a slog, but thanks to the fine folks at the Capital Research Center I learned another reason why teachers’ unions don’t like school choice. Railing against what’s known as public choice theory, which is described as “ask(ing) questions about government accountability and transparency, the influence of special interests, and the incentives that drive political decision-making,” these teacher’s unions are attempting to smear the legacy of the late Nobel Prize winner James M. Buchanan, who won his Nobel in 1986 on that subject. Public choice theory is popular with libertarians and like-minded conservatives.

On that front writer Christine Ravold not only points out the false charge of racism, but extends the blame for its spread to a union-backed push for colleges to eschew donations from libertarian philanthropists via a group called UnKoch My Campus. That front group lists a number of programs backed by the Charles Koch Institute as ones colleges should divest themselves from, never mind the idea of academic diversity.

Panic in Detroit

While we are talking about the CRC, it should be noted that Michigan-based writer and researcher Ken Braun has been turning a critical eye to a Detroit-originated institution, the Ford Foundation. 

Claiming the Foundation has abandoned the city of its birth, Braun wrote a three-part series for CRC detailing their history of ignoring Detroit as the city decayed over the last half-century.

As you may have guessed over the years, growing up an hour or so south of there and following their sports teams gives me a soft spot for the Motor City and a rooting interest in their success.

More smarts from Bobby Jindal

Another of my favorite conservative thinkers had a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (alas, behind a paywall for those who don’t get the daily) so I will give you his conclusion and my thoughts (for free, which may be all they are worth.)

The left’s effort to shut down free and open debate and banish people with opposing views is a tacit admission that they lack confidence in their own arguments.

Conservatives are often described as underrepresented and under siege on college campuses and in newsrooms. Even as professors and students continue to be disproportionately liberal, conservatives should take comfort that their ideals concerning free markets, the American dream, the traditional family structure and liberal democracy continue to prove themselves on their merits to each rising generation.

“Conservatism Isn’t Dead Yet,” Wall Street Journal op-ed by former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, November 25, 2018.

Why are conservatives underrepresented in those areas? Well, for one thing, the welcome wagon doesn’t seem to be out for them there and people like to go where they are wanted. (Plus the capitalist business world makes them a better living.)

Not to give away a lot on my forthcoming book, but there is a quote from columnist Kira Davis that I use in my epilogue that goes into discussing the fields conservatives should begin focusing on. This isn’t the quote I use in Rise and Fall, but later in the same article Davis adds: 

As it stands now,the people with the power to shut down our voices at places like Google and Facebook are largely millennial liberals who moved directly from the insulation of a progressive college campus to the insulation of a progressive technological campus often housed inside the bubble of a progressive large city.

(…)

It’s a culture, not a grand plot. The only way to change that culture is to flood it with a counter culture.

“Dear Conservative Parents: Stop Raising Politicians and Pundits,” Kira Davis, RedState.com, March 2, 2018.

People need to use a bit of an Alinsky-style tactic against Google, shaming them for their lack of diversity in thought by their witch hunt against online conservatives and their lack of conservative employees in general.

More election postmortems 

I just can’t get enough election analysis. Worth reading is a piece from Charles S. Faddis at AND Magazine written while the votes were still being counted. It make the case that both Democrats and Republicans are being torn apart by forces within their respective parties, leaving a lot of folks on all sides outside a political home and the parties in need of “soul searching.”

And this came from the Constitution Party, which managed to duck under the “blue wave”:


We maintained ballot status in all ten states where we ran candidates. The Constitution Party was the only minor party that did not lose ballot status in the states where we ran candidates for office.

“Constitution Party Bucks National Trend” e-mail, December 3, 2018.

This is in contrast to Maryland, where both the Libertarians and Green Party will have to have ballot access restored before the 2020 elections. While Maryland had a Constitution Party for one term (I believe it was 2006-10) they could not keep their momentum going. However, given the direction of the state Republican Party (or, more specifically, its standardbearer) the time may be ripe for a renewed push for ballot access in 2020.

In Delaware, their ballot access may be as simple as convincing some of the other smaller parties to disband and cast their lot with the Constitution Party. (One example: the American Party, which has a platform relatively in line with that of the Constitution Party, has more registered voters in Delaware but not enough for ballot access, nor is it as well organized nationally.) They could also get disgruntled Republicans who aren’t happy with the state party apparatus that has no statewide elective offices. 

And so, in conclusion…

Now that I have emptied out most of my mailbox, I’m closing in on the end of another edition of odds and ends, done the WordPress 5.0 way. But a heads-up on a couple pieces: One, I’m really interested in the vote proportions of the midterm election here in Maryland given the national oddity of 14 Congressional races all tilting to Democrats after the election night totals were released. The second is a discussion of new tactics from the Indivisible crowd upon the changeover in Congress.

Look for those in coming weeks.

Coattails tucked into his pants

So let’s talk about Larry Hogan, shall we?

I’m going to start way back in 2009. People tend to forget Larry actually had his eye on running for Governor back then and was briefly in the running until he deferred to his old boss and allowed him to get his doors blown off by Martin O’Malley. (Of course, I chose better in that primary, too.)

After the 2010 Ehrlich debacle – an election where the TEA Party wave somehow missed all of Maryland except for the Eastern Shore – you just had to know that Hogan, a vocal critic of Martin O’Malley during his brief time in the race, would figure out some way to stay in the headlines; thus, Change Maryland was born. I thought it was a great idea.

But when Hogan actually completed the fait accompli of getting into the 2014 open seat Governor’s race, I found he was great at articulating what he was against but not so much what he was for. Given a good field to choose from and one where all the contenders (save Hogan) spelled out their agenda, I supported someone else in the Republican primary but we got Larry. Of course, the rest is history.

I’m going to talk about two memories of Hogan from the campaign and how those issues were resolved.

As the O’Malley administration was heading out of town, one last-minute priority of theirs was an attempt to saddle our farmers with new phosphorus management rules that were basically written by the environmentalist wackos of the state. Hours after being sworn in, Hogan beat a deadline and pulled the regs – much to the chagrin of Radical Green.

But barely a month later, Hogan basically put the same thing into effect with a little bit of window dressing. I will grant that it was in the face of a bill with those same regulations in them but it also put the General Assembly on notice that Hogan could be rolled. And boy, was he ever when he reneged on a promise to eliminate the MOM-imposed moratorium on fracking in Maryland and sold the panhandle of the state down the river by endorsing a ban.

Aside from eliminating some tolls and reallocating money that could have been needlessly wasted on a light-rail boondoggle in Baltimore known as the Red Line, it’s really hard to compile a list of quantifiable, significant Hogan accomplishments but easy to find where he capitulated. We still have to pay for the Purple Line (not to mention a huge subsidy for the D.C. Metro), the “rain tax” repeal really wasn’t one, we got stuck with competing versions of paid sick leave (from a supposedly “business-friendly” governor) and on and on. Even at the end of this term, when he was free to use his veto pen because the terms of legislators were ending and there would be no override votes, he still let a lot of bad stuff through.

But I was still planning on holding my nose really, really tight and voting for Hogan, until he sold Tony Campbell out. That was the last straw. So I looked into Shawn Quinn. Lord knows there is a lot of his platform I didn’t agree with, but there is one key philosophy where Quinn and I are in complete agreement: when it comes to education, money should follow the child.

So thanks to all the betrayals and broken promises, Larry Hogan managed to lose my vote and Shawn Quinn received it – a little bit of unexpected help. No doubt Larry doesn’t really care because he won and now he’s a lame duck until he decides to run for something else (U.S. Senate in 2022?) but look at what he lost. He may blame Donald Trump, but I think Hogan’s reliance on Democrat votes bit him in the behind when it came to downballot races like the ballyhooed “Drive for Five” with state senators. Cases in point:

In District 3B, Bill Folden won with 7,522 votes in 2014 but lost with 8,775 votes this time.

In District 9B, Bob Flanagan won with 8,202 votes in 2014 but lost with 8,311 votes this time.

District 29B’s Deb Rey won last time with 5,334 votes but this time had 6,281 and still lost. That one sucked because Deb was always in the running to be one of my monoblogue Accountability Project Legislative All-Stars and achieved that goal twice, 2016 and 2017.

Glen Glass led all of District 34A with 10,779 votes in 2014 and may lose as the third-place finisher with 11.564 this time. He’s 19 votes out of second.

Glass was a Legislative All-Star way back in 2012 but was more comfortably average of late – still, a significant loss. Senate seat loser Gail Bates was also an All-Star as a Delegate in 2011 – I lost a total of three. One piece of great news, though: two-time mAP Legislator of the Year Joseph Boteler is back in the fold as he was one of three winners in District 8 (and the lone Republican, a net loss of one from the three-seat district), squeezing out Cluster.

Meanwhile, Hogan ran ahead of his 2014 pace in every county. Ironically, Anthony Brown would have killed for the 917,484 votes received by Ben Jealous, as that total would have won it for him four years ago – instead Jealous lost by over 300,000 votes.

But if you do a top 6/bottom 6 list of Hogan gains, it’s rather telling about the electorate.

Top 6 gainers:

  1. Prince George’s – up 13.3 percentage points
  2. Baltimore City – up 10.0 percentage points
  3. Kent – up 9.1 percentage points
  4. Talbot – up 8.0 percentage points
  5. Allegany – up 7.9 percentage points
  6. Montgomery – up 7.9 percentage points

Out of all those counties, though, there was not one Republican gain in the General Assembly because among these are the three most dominant Democrat counties in Maryland – only Allegany, Kent, and Talbot had GOP representatives prior to 2018 and all were re-elected.

Bottom 6 gainers:

  1. Cecil – up 0.4 percentage points
  2. Harford – up 0.9 percentage points
  3. Carroll – up 1.4 percentage points
  4. Baltimore – up 2.7 percentage points
  5. Charles – up 2.9 percentage points
  6. Anne Arundel – up 3.0 percentage points

In those six counties, the GOP lost Delegate seats in several districts: 8 (appointee Joe Cluster lost his election bid), 30A (Herb McMillan retired), 34A (Glen Glass lost his re-election), and 42B (Susan Aumann retired). St. Mary’s County (Delegate Deb Rey, District 29B) fell just outside this bottom 6 list and she paid the price, too. Also losing: Frederick County’s Bill Folden (District 3B) and Bob Flanagan from Howard County (District 9B) – epitomes of suburbia.

The GOP did grab Jim Brochin’s old Senate District 42 seat in Baltimore County as Delegate Chris West vacated a District 42B seat to move up, but that was tempered by the loss of the Senate District 9 seat held by Gail Bates, who was defeated in Howard County. That seat also has a small portion of Carroll County, one of my bottom 6. And of course everyone knows that MBC won in District 38, which I will get to in due course.

As more proof that Larry Hogan was the most popular Democrat in the race, let’s compare federal offices from 2014 to 2018:

  • Andy Harris (District 1, Maryland’s only GOP representative) fell from 70.4% of the vote in 2014 to just 60.3% this year. On the other hand:
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (District 2) gained from 61.3% to 65.7%, a 4.4 point increase.
  • John Sarbanes (District 3) gained from 59.5% to 68.6%, a 9.1 point increase.
  • Steny Hoyer (District 5) gained from 64% to 69.9%, a 5.9 point increase.
  • Elijah Cummings (District 7) gained from 69.9% to 76.1%, a 6.2 point increase.

In the apples to oranges category as there was a change in the office between 2014 and 2018:

  • District 4: Donna Edwards had 70.2% four years ago, Anthony Brown (running for re-election) got 77.6%.
  • District 6: John Delaney had 49.7% four years ago, but this time David Trone was elected with 57.6%. Republican Amie Hoeber lost to Delaney with 40.1% in the Presidential year of 2016 (typically high turnout) and only had 39.4% for an open seat this time.
  • District 8: Chris Van Hollen had 60.7% in 2014, Jamie Raskin (running for re-election) got 66.8%.

We always knew a Republican needed Democrat votes to survive statewide in Maryland, but the lack of coattails Larry Hogan had for his titular party was more than ridiculous. Their only two wins were in districts that were already primed for the GOP – District 42 had 2 of 3 GOP Delegates and a moderate Democrat Senator, while District 38 was all Republican aside from the Democrat Jim Mathias, who succeeded a longtime Republican Senator. I’m sure local Democrats are kicking themselves for not challenging Carl Anderton because they may well have won the seat back in this climate.

Indeed, the victory of MBC and the fact our other state legislative incumbents were unopposed or drew token, underfunded opposition was perhaps the only thing local Wicomico County Republicans could cheer about. Out of all the Delegate races locally, the only semi-constant was District 38A’s Charles Otto. While he had more votes this time around, he lost 1 percentage point and fell below 60 percent. Despite the fact his district no longer includes Wicomico, he is often present at local party events.

Looking at District 38, Jim Mathias actually drew more votes than he had in 2014 overall, although it appears he will be right about even in Somerset County. (As of this writing, Jim is 71 votes shy of his 2014 total there.) MBC playing Mathias nearly even (six votes’ difference) there in Somerset was one key, and her domination in Worcester County was the other. Compared to his 2014 race against former Delegate Mike McDermott, Mathias lost 1.6 percentage points in Wicomico, but plummeted 6.3 points in Worcester and 5.8 points in Somerset.

Locally, perhaps the biggest mistake Democrats made was not convincing Jack Heath to run in their primary. For all the angst about his independent bid, you have to call it a failure when Heath outspent his Democrat opponent by a margin of $20,556.63 to $1,266.66. (Bob Culver spent $21,616.99 through the final reporting cycle so financially the race was even between Heath and Culver.) Yet the race wasn’t even close between Culver and Democrat John Hamilton, as Bob won by 19 points with Heath barely breaking into the twenties with 21% – 28 points behind Culver. In other words, Democrats were so determined to elect their own they didn’t inform themselves about qualifications or readiness for office – they just saw the word “Democrat” and filled in the oval. Had he run as a Democrat, Jack could have won (or come much closer) since I suspect he split the Democrat vote.

Yet the GOP has to take some blame locally, too. I’m not sure their candidate recruitment was up to par this time around: two of their primary candidates had scrapes with the law, and while one of them was defeated in the primary the other was unopposed. I know that party preference is to avoid primaries, but I don’t think voters were served well when Julie Brewington didn’t withdraw prior to the primary, allowing the Central Committee to select a candidate with less baggage. She was one I withheld my vote from; instead I wrote in my friend Cathy Keim – who should have been on County Council in 2011 to succeed the late Bob Caldwell because all of us on the Central Committee except the one also running for the job, who recused herself, voted for Cathy. That was a County Council seat needlessly lost, and they were already looking at a tough district race in a heavily D district that, predictably, went for the Democrat. (And a loony-tunes lefty he is, too – grab a hold tight to your wallet and private property rights.) So the previous 6-1 margin for Republicans is now a scant 4-3, with one less-than-trustworthy vote on the R side and a Board of Education lackey there to boot, too. The only two R’s I can trust to generally look out for my interests now are Marc Kilmer and Joe Holloway. (Funny, but things never change.)

Then we had another candidate who refused to knock on doors, and I told him that’s how you win votes. (Ask Carl Anderton or MBC.) Great guy, very qualified for what is essentially an administrative post, but lost by about 2,300 votes (or doors he didn’t knock on.) Now that his opponent is in, good luck winning that office until he retires, just like Mike Lewis or Karen Lemon are lifers where they are at.

And for all that work we did to have an elected school board, I can’t say I’m pleased with the results. Out of seven spots, the two at-large winners were the ones on the teacher union’s “apple ballot” – an automatic vote for their opponents in my book – and we also got a longtime board member when the Republican who was on that ballot could no longer campaign because she took a county job. So right there are three votes for the status quo – or worse. I believe, however, that Gene Malone was the last Republican BoE appointee and, having served with both John Palmer and Ann Suthowski on the Central Committee I think they will be relatively conservative (although Ann may be a squish on the wasteful mandatory pre-K idea.)

The fate of the school board, then, is coming down to District 3. David Goslee, Sr. (who I also know from serving with him on the WCRCC) is literally hanging on by the skin of his teeth – 9 votes separate him and his opponent, who is another mandatory pre-K supporter. I’m putting out the bat-signal to my friend and cohort Cathy Keim – watch that race like a hawk, I don’t want them to “find” another box of provisional votes someplace.

That pretty much covers my ballot. It wasn’t a straight R ticket, since there were a couple Democrats who were unopposed that were worth my vote to retain. (Same for the unopposed Republicans, by the way.) I just wish the person at the top would not have broken the little trust I had in him.

Two more quick thoughts: for all we heard about the “progressive” movement locally, they mainly got spanked at the ballot box. But it could be worse: they could be Republicans in Delaware – who now have literally no statewide offices after the lost the couple they had and saw their deficit in both House and Senate increase by one seat, a casualty list that included both their Minority Whips. Hey, maybe Larry Hogan can move there in time for 2020 and that election.