The cooling-off period

At one time I planned on writing a rebuttal to all the Trump items I put up this week yesterday, but after all the events of the convention I decided it was better to hold off for a week or so and let emotions simmer down a little bit. It also gives me a chance to attend two of my meetings and gauge the mood of the electorate, so to speak – so perhaps after all that I will pick up that baton and share my thoughts on both Marita Noon’s commentary regarding Trump’s energy policy and the entire Art of the Deal series. Right now, emotions are too high and points will be missed.

It’s no secret I didn’t support Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, nor will I be backing the Clinton/Kaine ticket. (Hell, the guy doesn’t even know our part of Maryland exists because he thought Virginia shared a border with Delaware.) Yet I still have an interest in the downticket races, and this year I will be following the advice of Ted Cruz and voting my conscience. (Or, if you prefer, Ivanka Trump, who said, “I vote based on what I believe is right for my family and for my country.” So will I.) But the combination of the Democratic convention taking over the news cycle and my general fatigue with the Presidential race means I may look at some other stuff for a little bit.

One thing I was asked to look at by my friends at the Patriot Post for this week was the prospects for Republicans in the downticket federal races. (If you get their “Weekend Snapshot,” the article is prominently featured there as well.) But I find a little bit of fault with my editor because my original concluding sentence was, “The next four years could be the most interesting and unpredictable times our nation has ever known.” My thought in that sentence was to invoke the old adage “may you live in interesting times” as we seem to be cursed into a choice leading us toward them. To me, this may be the election where more people vote against someone that affirmatively vote for a candidate.

(To that end, can we install the “none of these candidates” option like Nevada has? I could see factions in all four parties on the ballot in Maryland who would love a do-over: Republicans who are anti-Trump, Democrats who backed Bernie Sanders, Libertarians who would like a more doctrinaire candidate than former Republican Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein of the Green Party who would happily move aside for Sanders, too.)

Just think about Congress for a moment. In poll after poll it’s shown to be one of the least popular institutions in the country, but voters send all but a small handful back term after term until they decide to retire. Maryland is a good example of this, with the longest-tenured Congressman being Steny Hoyer (17 terms), followed by Elijah Cummings with 10, Chris Van Hollen and Dutch Ruppersberger with seven apiece, John Sarbanes with five, Donna Edwards with four (plus a few months), Andy Harris with three, and John Delaney with two. Since Edwards and Van Hollen both sought the Senate seat, those districts will open up – but thanks to blatant gerrymandering, they are likely to be gravy trains and “lifetime appointments” for Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin, respectively.

Aside from the one term of Frank Kratovil here in the First District as a “blue dog” Democrat carried on the Obama wave in an otherwise GOP-dominated area, you have to go back almost forty years to find a handful of one-term wonders that Maryland sent to Congress. Both our current Senators came to the job after serving multiple terms in the House, as would Chris Van Hollen if he wins the Senate seat. Kathy Szeliga, on the other hand, has served just a term and a half in the Maryland House of Delegates – although compared to other GOP Senate candidates in recent years that almost qualifies as “career politician,” too.

Yet while our GOP candidate supports Trump and has an uphill battle to win, she was criticized for skipping the convention as well:

Some (GOP convention) delegates who wished to remain anonymous to avoid antagonizing another party member privately expressed discontent and disappointment with Szeliga’s and Hogan’s absences in Cleveland at a time when unity is a key goal of their party after a fractious primary season.

Of course, Andy Harris was there in Cleveland, but he’s in an R+13 or so district with far less to worry about. It was better for Szeliga to be in Crisfield meeting voters with her opponent there.

So while I will talk about the convention in at least one piece I’m considering – and my invited guests may decide on their own to look at the Presidential race – I’m going to step back from it for a little bit. It’s the pause that will refresh me.

Explaining the partisan difference

Reader Joe Ollinger forwarded to me a recent Washington Times summary by Anjali Shastry of a Democratic counter-proposal to Governor Hogan’s redistricting reforms.  On the heels of our latest Wicomico County Republican Club meeting that featured Walter Olson, co-chair of the state’s Redistricting Reform Committee, the timing is fabulous.

There are a couple great tacit admissions that we should take away from the Maryland majority’s plan. In essence they were conceding that, indeed, these districts were put together for partisan advantage. But rather than be contrite, they whine that they can’t “disarm” unless some other Republican state somewhere does the same. That condition may already be met: North Carolina had to postpone its Congressional primary elections in order to redraw two districts deemed to be inappropriate, and that is a state with a Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Of course, even that won’t satisfy Maryland Democrats who have thrived on the ability to redraw the maps to suit their purposes. For example, what are the odds that random chance would dictate 44 of the 50 Republicans in the Maryland House represent districts that are larger than the state average? And did the voting tastes of the state change so much that in two years (2000 to 2002) the state’s Congressional delegation went from a 4-4 split to 6-2 Democrat at a time when then-President George W. Bush’s popularity in the aftermath of 9/11 was at a peak?

People are fed up with the crap. While I question their wisdom in believing Donald Trump is the appropriate candidate to convey the point, there are millions who are tired of the political gamesmanship. Here in Maryland Larry Hogan rode into office as a centrist Republican, has arguably become the state’s most popular politician with the impending retirement of Senator Barbara Mikulski, and has decided one of his priorities is to make the redistricting process more equitable between not just the two parties, but voters all over the spectrum who may not like the two party options. I can’t argue with that. (It’s not like he asked to go back to the old system where each Maryland county had its own Senator, which times two is the method I would favor to restore balance to our state’s government by making sure counties have their interests protected. Instead of direct elections, it would be the county’s legislative body making the selections.)

And then we have Jamie Raskin’s “ranked choice” idea. This video probably explains it better than I can:

270ponents claim that RCV encourages turnout and discourages negative campaigning, insofar as it’s been applied on a local level. However, there’s an argument that voters won’t take the time to familiarize themselves with the multiple choices and that RCV can still be manipulated by the formation of slates.

Yet Raskin’s idea of multiple-candidate Congressional districts is already being implemented here in Maryland, a state which has a variance of House districts based on their overlaying Senate districts: some are three single-member divisions, some are divided into a two-member district and a single-member district, and others are completely at-large. In most of those at-large cases a single party wins and oftentimes the opposition doesn’t even fill out the ballot.

As is often the case, when Maryland Democrats don’t get their way they point the finger of blame at outside entities. Sorry, this one is on you guys.

A lack of interest – or a lack of faith?

In news which wasn’t totally unexpected, the petition drives for both reinstating the death penalty and rescinding the onerous gun laws passed by Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly both fell short of the 18,579 signatures necessary to continue the process through the end of June.

It seems to me that each failed for a different reason.

In the case of the death penalty petition, which was backed by mdpetitions.com – a group that had previously been 3-for-3 in getting statewide petitions on the ballot – it seemed like there was a resigned resistance to their efforts given that all three of their previous referenda lost at the ballot box. Moreover, it wasn’t like we hadn’t already done without the death penalty for nearly eight years before SB276 passed, since the last Maryland execution occurred under Bob Ehrlich in 2005. With just five people remaining on Death Row in Maryland, those who believe in maintaining the ultimate penalty on the books probably figured that they would only delay the inevitable, as a future General Assembly could (and likely would) once again vote to drop the death penalty in a few years’ time.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that this was simply a change of statute and not a Constitutional amendment, so a General Assembly restored to its senses could bring the death penalty back. It’s likely we would have to go through the referendum process in reverse, though, as signatures would surely be gathered for a ballot question on the issue. And since the death penalty is pretty much a 50-50 issue according to the most recent Maryland Poll, legislators who vote to make it a ballot issue – as a Constitutional ban would have to be – could potentially see the initiative on the same docket as their re-election.

In order to kill the death penalty in Maryland once and for all, look for opponents to go the Constitutional route in the 2015 or 2016 session in order to secure more votes for the Democratic nominee for President here in Maryland in 2016. It won’t pass in 2014 because any Constitutional amendment proposed there goes before voters in the same year.

Conversely, mdpetitions.com took a pass on petitioning the SB281 gun bill to referendum, with the stated belief that our rights under the United States Constitution are not subject to a balloting. They opted to join the effort to fight the bill in court. Instead, a new competing entity called freestatepetitions.com took up that banner with just a few weeks to gather the signatures. So the fact they came within a few hundred signatures of the minimum tells me the passion was there, and the petition stood a fair chance of success if started earlier.

And while the idea of a referendum was supported with the thought of buying more time to fight the law in court, the fact the petition drive failed was immediately trumpeted by gun grabbers as proof their bill had overwhelming public support.

Similarly, those who worked to eliminate the only crime control method with a zero percent recidivism rate crowed about both their victory and how the 2012 election set things up. State Senator Jamie Raskin:

Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat who lead his chamber’s floor debate on repeal, said lawmakers were emboldened after voters upheld same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for immigrants who are in this country illegally when those laws were petitioned to referendum on last fall’s ballot. Friday’s announcement that organizers could not find enough votes to send the death penalty question to voters, Raskin said, further proves that Marylanders back the legislature.

“The defenders of the death penalty promised retaliation, but their bark was worse than their bite,” Raskin said. (Emphasis mine.)

The retaliation may yet come in 2014 despite this interim failure. Raskin may not feel the voters’ wrath in his relatively safe district, but those in swing districts may fall victim if they voted to spare convicted murderers capital punishment.

So once October 1 rolls around, those in the Black Guerrilla Family and other gangs who seem to be in control of Maryland’s prisons will have even less to fear because their actions won’t be subjected to the needle. Hopefully we won’t need the senseless murder of corrections personnel to prove that taking away that possibility was a short-sighted action.

In the meantime, though, we are left to wonder about one thing. What if either petition group had the financial muscle to pull a Rob Sobhani and pay people to gather petition signatures? With a financial incentive, to me there’s no doubt enough signatures would be gathered but everything in these failed drives was done in a volunteer fashion.

And since these groups now have a little bit of forced downtime, there’s a project I would love to speak to you about. Since Rick Pollitt wants to see a referendum before moving on an elected school board, and we can’t get help from Annapolis to otherwise make it happen, perhaps getting the signatures required to put it on the Wicomico County ballot next year will get things moving. Why should a board appointed by the Governor control a $180 million chunk of our tax dollars, with nearly $40 million of that directly coming out of local taxpayers’ pockets?

Just let me know; you know how to reach me.

  • I haven't. Have you?
  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Link to Maryland Democratic Party

    In the interest of being fair and balanced, I provide this service to readers. But before you click on the picture below, just remember their message:

  • Part of the Politics in Stereo network.