Odds and ends number 87

Returning after a nearly five-month hiatus, it’s another edition of my occasional series of items that require anything from a couple sentences to a few paragraphs. Some of it is leftover campaign stuff from this time around, but I’m going to reach back to my 2016 GOP choice to start this off.

Too often, I get an e-mail from Bobby Jindal that links to a piece behind the Wall Street Journal paywall. I like Bobby but I really don’t need to read the WSJ daily, so I miss out on being able to share. In this case, though, I was pleased to see him at National Review, which doesn’t have a paywall. And that’s good because when he points out:

Democrats point to the supposedly existential threat of climate change and the nation’s allegedly inhumane immigration system as reasons to give them control of Congress this November. Yet their failure to prioritize these issues and pass legislation when they controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House during Obama’s first two years in office belie their seriousness. Republicans are currently demonstrating a similar hypocrisy by failing to act on their supposed political priorities, including repealing Obamacare and reducing federal spending and borrowing. Even more dangerously, Republican failure to advance significant conservative solutions to the problems voters care about is setting the stage for Democratic overreach.

(…)

A majority of voters still prefer effective conservative market-based solutions to their real-world problems, but they will settle for government subsidies and dictates as a second-best solution if Republicans fail to offer an alternative. Republicans’ failure to address rising health-care costs when they were last in the majority led directly to Obamacare, and their failure to act today will result in a single-payer system. It all seems fine now, but remember this moment if and when we get single-payer.

As we are seeing in Maryland, single-payer isn’t a great selling political point – yet. But we’re also seeing the Democrats chip away at this by re-branding it as Medicare for All. One irony of entitlement reform as often proposed on both sides is that fixing Medicare will be the impetus for expanding it to a younger and younger age cohort, meaning people my age may soon get it – and entitlement-addled Millennials will soon be following suit because they’ll whine that they don’t have what their parents do, even though the parents have actually paid the Medicare tax for much of their working lives.

But if a market-based solution gains traction – perhaps making personal health insurance premium payments fully tax-deductible (as employer-based insurance payments already are paid pre-tax) would be a good interim step – the advantages of the private market would remain.

Another good step toward private enterprise might be addressing this disparity, as detailed by Hayden Ludwig at the Capital Research Center:

For a republic founded on states’ rights, the federal government owns a lot of American land. In 2017, the Department of the Interior reported federal ownership of 640 million acres—about 28 percent of the United States. Of that, only 2 percent is composed of military bases and training ranges managed by the Department of Defense. Much of the rest – a staggering 246 million acres – is concentrated under a single agency: the Bureau of Land Management, an agency of the Interior Department.

Even if you consider that there are a number of long-standing national parks in the West, the overuse of the 1906 Antiquities Act, especially by Democrat presidents, to create “no-go zones” for development, free use by agricultural interests, or energy exploration means that land isn’t being placed at its highest and best use. But they don’t seem to be resistant to using the land for the boondoggle of solar energy.

Did you know that for each megawatt of solar power created, the subsidy is over $40? That’s not me talking, but a University of Texas study cited by my old friends at Americans for Limited Government. Speaking on solar energy, author Richard McCarty writes:

After years of generous, taxpayer-funded subsidies, solar energy is still unable to compete on a level playing field with coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. Regrettably, solar energy’s higher costs have a human impact making it tougher for less affluent people to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. With so many affordable, reliable energy resources in this country, there is just no excuse for the government to be mandating and subsidizing green energy production.

Of course, if you’ve read my work regularly over the last 12-plus years, you have likely figured out I’m dubious about solar energy being a viable option in many areas of the nation. Obviously it could work off-grid and there’s no doubt the sun is an effective source of warmth in arid areas that enjoy abundant sunshine, such as the deserts in our Southwest, but in most other areas we’re hit-or-miss when it comes to solar power. (Case in point, today’s rainy day with a declining amount of daily sunshine not helping matters.) So while we still have the abundant fossil fuel resources, why not use them?

We don’t know whether Election Day will turn out sunny or cloudy weather-wise, but one thing I do know is that statist advocates like Joe Biden are backing candidates who they think will make their task easier. This is a snippet from a recent e-mail from the Biden-created American Possibilities:

(In June), in the latest threat to our right to vote, the Supreme Court gave the state of Ohio permission to kick thousands of voters off their rolls this fall based on how frequently they’d voted in the past. And now, you better believe that other states around the country are going to be emboldened to try the same thing.

Michael, if there’s anything we’ve learned this past year, it’s that we can’t always predict the future – but we can shape it.

And right now one of the very best ways we can help save voting rights in the United States is by electing strong Secretaries of State, the folks responsible for overseeing elections, all across the country.

So today, I’m endorsing four of these folks – each of them someone who understands that democracy is about making it easier, not harder, for every single one of us to have our say.

What Ohio was doing wasn’t terribly strict – I’ll let CNN explain:

Ohio law allows the state to send address confirmation notices to voters who have not engaged in voter activity for two years. If a voter returns the notice through prepaid mail, or responds online, the information is updated. If the notice is ignored and the voter fails to update a registration over the next four years, the registration is canceled. (Emphasis mine.)

So this purge of the rolls is after SIX years of inactivity to me isn’t all that hardline – particularly in a state like Ohio, which not only has balloting every year (primary and general for federal, state, and county offices in even-numbered years, primary and general for municipal and township offices and school boards in odd-numbered years, plus special elections for tax levies as needed) but also makes it fairly easy to get an absentee ballot and has a generous early voting schedule that actually makes Maryland look like pikers. If you’re not interested in participating after at least 12 (and probably closer to 15 to 20) opportunities to vote, it’s pretty likely you won’t.

And I think that law is good protection – I didn’t want someone claiming to be me to vote in my stead when I left the state. I seem to remember contacting my old Board of Elections once I registered here after the 2004 election to make sure they took me off the rolls. (Despite being here, that year I voted absentee in Ohio because I arrived after Maryland’s registration deadline in mid-October. If it weren’t a Presidential election, I probably would have skipped it.) Biden wants Secretaries of State that will not take the time to prune lists of ineligible voters and allow for same-day registration.

That’s straight out of the Democrat playbook, as expressed by DNC Chair Tom Perez:

Democrats are doing all we can to make sure that every eligible voter can exercise their constitutional right at the ballot box. That’s why we’re encouraging all states to offer same-day voter registration and the ability to register as a Democrat to vote in Democratic primaries. (Emphasis in original.)

Can you say Operation Chaos 2020?

Remember, it’s not the votes that count but who counts the votes. Ask Norm Coleman.

Since I brought up Ohio, it’s also the base for a pro-life advocacy group called Created Equal. Something they’re doing as their ministry is taking the pro-life message to the streets, as they detail in a video series they’re promoting called Preborn Defenders 101. It may be a good reference for others who share the pro-life philosophy – as they note, “our training is not theoretical. It is tested and tried in the fires of the public forum.”

(Public service announcement in that vein: the annual fundraising dinner of the Eastern Shore Pregnancy Center comes up next month.)

Hopefully that dinner won’t conflict with the second scheduled Senatorial debate, which I found out about by accident: the Neal Simon campaign was announcing their second television spot – obviously they can afford it. As they describe the commercial:

The ad presents Simon as a strong, independent voice who will work for all Marylanders in Washington, and criticizes the two political parties and its leaders for playing partisan games that are dividing Americans and blocking progress.

I don’t know about either strong or independent, given the composition of those who donated to him, but they sure had to spin the recent Goucher Poll (slightly edited for spacing purposes):

———-

If you are writing something about the Goucher poll today or this week, the Neal Simon, unaffiliated candidate for the US Senate, campaign can provide a comment/quote, if you like.

Key components here are the following in our mind:

  • Momentum is a powerful force and it is beginning to swing our way:
    • In campaigns, nothing is more powerful than momentum and we feel like it is on our side and we are just getting going.
    • In 2 weeks, we expect to see another statewide poll, and we believe our numbers will prove that we are gaining momentum
  • During a campaign, support for candidates either rises or falls: we are rising, our opponents are falling:
    • Our message resonates with voters, and as a result of our campaign, the Republican and Democratic candidates have seen their support decline.
    • We have gone from 0% to 8% – Neal had no name ID when this started – the media is not covering our news, we have to buy exposure (that is an entire other topic).
    • If you look at other state-wide races like AG, the Republican is polling at the rate of registered R voters. Campbell is polling way lower than that.
    • Neither Cardin nor Campbell has enthusiasm – we went up 8 points, they went down. Neal is the only candidate with any kind of momentum.
    • Cardin has 56%, but 60% of people polled are registered democrats
    • Campbell polled at 17%, with 26% registered republican voters in the state.
    • As more voters see our ads, hear our message, and meet Neal on the campaign trail, support for major party candidates will continue to decline. Neal looks forward to the debate on October 7 to speak directly to the people of Maryland.

———-

What this shows to me is that Republicans (most of whom did not vote in the primary) may be operating under the belief that Neal is the endorsed Republican candidate. Normally the two dominant parties are on television, but in this case Campbell’s fundraising has been anemic (in all likelihood because donors believe he has no chance; alas, a self-fulfilling prophecy) while Simon lent his campaign more money than all the Maryland Republicans in federal races – except Andy Harris – have on hand combined.

So the bite out of the GOP total is coming from having a candidate that voters may well believe is the GOP nominee, running as a populist outsider in the vein of Larry Hogan. If anything, though, Simon should be taking from the Democrat’s total because his political philosophy is more aligned with them. That’s the only way he’s going to win, anyway. But Neal does need some percentage of independents and unaware Republicans to win.

By the same token, Tony Campbell’s extremely narrow path to victory comes down to this: Simon draws enough Democrat and independent support from Ben Cardin to split their vote, with common-sense independents and a strong GOP turnout backing Campbell. Maybe it’s time for Larry Hogan to work for the Republican team that consists of himself, Craig Wolf for Attorney General, Tony Campbell for Senate, and whatever local candidates are there for his stops – the only reason Larry and crew needs to be on the Eastern Shore is to back Mary Beth Carozza over the guy who voted to overturn Hogan’s veto 5 times in 7 key votes over the last three years.

It may make conservatives sick to their stomach to run the kind of campaign that gloms onto the moderate Hogan’s popularity, but the time for conservative principles comes when they actually govern, not on the campaign trail in a state that doesn’t know better (yet. I can only push back the frontiers of ignorance just so quickly.)

Now that my mailbox is empty, I suppose I can put this post to bed. It’s been fun putting this one together.

A more agreeable tone?

The election of Donald Trump was a surprise to most pundits, who were expecting Hillary Clinton to win both the popular vote and the Electoral College. But her plans were spoiled when she lost three states she expected would be her “blue firewall” even if she lost in Florida: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Those 46 electoral votes assured her defeat when they accrued to Trump’s column (although Michigan may still switch as a recount is likely required.) Add in a surprisingly lopsided win in Ohio for Trump as well as the expected blowout in Indiana, and the Rust Belt was pretty solidly in Donald Trump’s corner.

Much has been made about the droves of working-class voters that seemingly came out of nowhere to propel Trump over the finish line, and a survey released by the Alliance for American Manufacturing bears this out:

The national survey, conducted by The Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research (firms that poll for Democratic and Republican candidates respectively) found that 85 percent of those surveyed support a national manufacturing strategy. Support for a manufacturing strategy is robust among both Trump voters (89 percent) and Clinton voters (83 percent).

Manufacturing may have been an election-determining issue, as Trump won manufacturing households by 18 points with Clinton winning non-manufacturing households by 4 points.

It comes as no surprise that by more than a two-to-one margin voters believe manufacturing is critical to our future and reject the notion that high-tech or services could take its place.

“The biggest surprise on election night came from the Industrial Heartland,” (AAM President Scott) Paul said. “Manufacturing is the engine that drives the heartland’s economy. The good news is that Trump and Clinton voters alike want to get it back on track.” (Link added.)

Unfortunately, the survey doesn’t cite the evidence ascertaining the voting patterns of manufacturing and non-manufacturing households, but my presumption would be that a “manufacturing” household is one where a family member either currently works in the sector, is retired from it, or was previously in the sector but lost his or her job. Thousands of voters fit in this category: using my native Ohio as an example, Trump did far better overall than Mitt Romney did in key manufacturing centers like Toledo (Lucas County), Lorain (Lorain County), Cleveland (Cuyahoga County), Akron (Summit County), Canton (Stark County), and Youngstown (Mahoning County).

  • Lucas County: Romney 68,100 (33.9%), Trump 74,102 (38.7%)
  • Lorain County: Romney 58,095 (41.9%), Trump 65,346 (47.8%)*
  • Cuyahoga County: Romney 184,475 (30.2%), Trump 179,894 (30.8%)
  • Summit County: Romney 111,001 (41.4%), Trump 109,531 (43.8%)
  • Stark County: Romney 86,958 (49.2%)*, Trump 96,345 (56.4%)*
  • Mahoning County: Romney 41,702 (35.5%), Trump 52,808 (46.8%)

*winner in county.

In total, Trump amassed 27,695 more votes in these industrial counties, and while he only won 2 of the 6, he averaged a 5.4% improvement overall. Having a little residual knowledge of how Ohio politics works, seeing how Trump was close in the initial count was a good sign for him – oftentimes in the urban counties the closer election districts report first (they are more heavily minority) so a Republican almost always starts out behind. It’s a matter of whether they get too far back to reel in the leader as the suburban and rural precincts begin to come in. And like the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the rural areas of Ohio are also an indicator for GOP candidates who need to rack up totals in the 65 to 75 percent range to make up for the losses in urban counties. Trump did this in spades, garnering an astounding 80.7% in Mercer County along the Indiana border – part of a group of adjacent western Ohio counties where over 3 out of 4 voters were Trump backers. (Of the few Ohio counties that went for Hillary Clinton, just one was a non-urban county and that comes with a caveat – Athens County is the home of Ohio University. Somehow, as a Miami graduate, I’m not surprised.)

It would be my guess that the AAM will be much more Trump-friendly than they may have appeared at first glance as a union-backed creation. The President-elect is promising heavy investment in infrastructure (a priority of theirs) and has a view on trade much more in line with the protectionist playbook the group has created.

And certainly I don’t want to say the manufacturing jobs are gone for good; however, those workers who are of a certain age (basically my age or older) may not share in the rebirth of manufacturing like they hope they might, if only because the ship of state which has sailed since the days of NAFTA and the rampant offshoring of the era will be difficult to turn around right away. Not only are trade and infrastructure key factors, but so is reducing the tax burden on American companies. On the other hand, the prospect of punishing American companies that move offshore may hasten their plans and create more headaches in the short run.

Donald Trump won his electoral votes in the Midwest by promising a return to the good times of a half-century ago, when it was possible for a guy to graduate high school and get a job through family or friends with a union shop that would keep him employed for the next forty years or until he decided to take his pension and retire. Those days are a memory. But we can still be a nation that makes stuff, and it would be to our advantage to become that nation as the world becomes a more competitive place.

The state of worker freedom 2015

It’s been a tough year for Big Labor. From the worker freedom side, states are switching over to right-to-work status which gives the working man the ability to put hundreds of dollars more in their pockets annually by reducing or eliminating the forced payment of union dues. Meanwhile, the environmental lobby has grabbed the attention of the Obama administration from the left, meaning no Keystone XL pipeline the Teamsters support and a more rapid demise of the United Mine Workers union thanks to EPA regulations discouraging the use of coal. Ironically, Big Labor has allies on both those environmental issues in the Republican Party they rail against while shoveling millions to those who support the environmentalists.

But today I want to take a brief look at the former issue. In the next few months, there’s a good chance that Missouri could join the ranks of right-to-work states despite the fact it has a Democratic governor – the GOP has significant majorities in both houses of its legislature so it’s merely a matter of intestinal fortitude on their part.

After that, though, the pickings are far more slim. Most of the remaining closed-shop states have either a Democrat-controlled legislature – which means any right-to-work legislation is dead on arrival, as is annually the case in Maryland – or a Democratic governor who won’t sign it and knows the votes aren’t there to override. That eliminates most of the states which toil under closed shops.

A couple exceptions to this are Alaska and Ohio, but these states aren’t promising for different reasons. Alaska has a Republican-controlled legislature and a governor who is a Republican-turned-independent who ran on a unity ticket with the Democratic nominee to defeat former GOP Gov. Sean Parnell. But there’s no real push to adopt such legislation as it appears the energy industry, which is the state’s predominant private employer, is comfortable with the closed shops.

On the other hand, Ohio tried to pass right-to-work reforms in 2011 but they were overturned via referendum that same year. In an election year with solely local offices on the ballot, Big Labor was able to mobilize its army of volunteers and fool enough of the others to win a sizable victory. And while the dire predictions that the defeat of right-to-work would make Gov. John Kasich a one-term governor didn’t pan out, the current Presidential candidate has no appetite to go through that fight again. Moreover, GOP members of the Ohio legislature aren’t going to risk anything that could enhance Democratic turnout in a state Republicans need to carry in 2016.

So the fight in Missouri may be the last right-to-work battleground for awhile. It may be Labor Day of 2017 before we get significant movement one way or the other.

Cleveland rocks!

To me, it was good news from the RNC: the 2016 GOP convention is slated for Cleveland. For those of us on the East Coast, it’s a city within driving distance and in my case I would have a ready-made place to stay because part of my family lives there. The “mistake on the lake” could achieve the daily double as well, since the Democrats also have their eye on Cleveland for their convention – if so, it will be the first time in 44 years both parties have held their convention in the same city, with Miami being the site of both 1972 conventions. Cleveland last hosted a national convention in 1936, when Republicans picked Alf Landon to face Franklin Roosevelt. (They also hosted the 1924 GOP convention, which nominated President Calvin Coolidge for a full term.)

But to me it’s a milestone of a city going through the pains of revitalization, A few weeks ago, on my Sausage Grinder blog, I wrote a piece reviewing a study done in Cleveland about how the city is attracting more and more young workers. Frustrated by high real estate prices on the coasts and finding good jobs in the “eds and meds” fields, Cleveland is becoming a destination of choice around the region. Yes, that Cleveland.

If the GOP wants to send a message about their vision for America, they should focus on the process Cleveland is using for its rebirth. The city is a laboratory to study mistakes made and methods which work, as it serves as a microcosm of sorts for the country at large. Built up in an era when brains and brawn were needed in equal supply to create the goods which helped a young America prosper and witness to an exodus to both its suburbs and more favorable regions which all but killed the city, Cleveland can still be a survivor. As I wrote in my piece, Cleveland is a place “where manufacturing is in the blood.” I think making things in America again is the key to a national renaissance.

Certainly Dallas and Kansas City, Cleveland’s two main opponents in the fight to be convention host, have their own stories to tell. But there’s a political factor to consider: Texas and Missouri have been fairly safe Republican territory over the last several elections, but Ohio has gone with the winning Presidential candidate a remarkable 13 elections in a row – so any Republican advantage there can be vital. On a state level, the GOP has been dominant for much of the last quarter-century, albeit with less-than-conservative politicians occupying the governor’s chair – George Voinovich, Bob Taft, and John Kasich have left a lot to be desired insofar as the conservative movement is concerned. But if Kasich secures re-election this year, he will be the fourth two-term Republican governor in a row stretching back to the days of James Rhodes, who served four non-consecutive terms beginning in 1963.

So if I’m blessed enough to get an opportunity to cover the proceedings – or even be a delegate or alternate – I think it would be fun to give the perspective of a transplanted Ohioan. It’s something I can scratch off my bucket list in fairly familiar surroundings.

An overstatement by Sauerbrey?

Writing recently about the concept of “prevailing wage,” two-time gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey used the letter to the editor to praise her apparent choice for governor, David Craig. Here’s the letter in its entirety, as posted on Southern Maryland News Net. I received it as an e-mail under Craig’s campaign letterhead.

I want to point out a specific passage for comment, in particular the one where Sauerbrey speaks about Craig himself and attributes statements to him.

The 2014 General Assembly has passed legislation to apply the prevailing wage to additional local government projects that receive partial state funding. The prevailing wage which is essentially the union wage, artificially inflates labor costs by ab (sic) estimated 30% to 50%.

I commend Harford County Executive and Gubernatorial candidate David Craig for speaking out on the impact of the new law on his county, as well as the impact of prevailing wages on the state budget. Every local elected official concerned about getting the most value on public projects should want to let the market determine employee wages as is done in the private sector. County Executive Craig points out that the prevailing wage adds an additional $30 million cost to his county’s $300 million capital budget for school construction.

It may not surprise you that I have some familiarity with school construction. In the 1990s, thanks to a court decision, the state of Ohio went on a multi-billion dollar spending binge to construct new schools in practically every one of Ohio’s 600-plus school districts. (I spent seven years working for an architectural firm which specialized in schools, although I had left that company before the boom in school construction began.) In 1997 the state created an exemption to prevailing wage regulations for schools, and in that debate numbers similar to the 30 to 50 percent savings were bandied about by proponents of the measure eliminating prevailing wage.

Also mandated at the time, however, was a report to be delivered five years later, in 2002. In this report, the research indicated savings were more in the ten percent range. While that is a great savings to the taxpayer, it’s not the panacea proponents were anticipating when the bill was passed. Granted, with the vast volume of work going on at the time there was less incentive for low bids – perhaps an economic climate such as today’s would yield more significant savings.

While Sauerbrey uses the hyperbole of the 50 percent savings in her letter, it should be pointed out that David Craig’s statement within seems to ring true – out of $300 million, the $30 million addition seems to line up with the data from Ohio’s study.

But regardless of the actual savings, there is a philosophical argument to be made against the concept of an artificially-created “prevailing” wage, simply because it doesn’t necessarily reflect the true conditions of the actual labor market. I can completely understand the contention that projects completed under prevailing wage (more often than not by union shops) have a better quality to them, as one advantage of using union tradesmen borne out in my experience is that they are better trained, so the question is one of whether they are worth the premium. In some cases I would say yes, but I’m not sure schools are structures complex enough to justify the extra cost – certainly not to the extent of a health care facility or technology-heavy factory where fit and finish can be most important.

I also find it interesting that on the one hand Democrats tend to be for cherished union giveaways like prevailing wage, but do nothing on the other but encourage illegal aliens to come in and undercut the market for construction labor. I haven’t seen them yet this spring, but sooner or later somewhere on Delmarva there will be three or four union carpenters holding up the “shame on” banner because someone hired non-union labor most likely mainly made up of illegal aliens. And what else do those hapless guys have to do?

In a perfect world, many advocacy groups agree that the Davis-Bacon Act which spawned the concept of prevailing wage would be repealed. (At one time even the General Accounting Office argued for repeal.) There is even a bill in the House of Representatives to do the same, although no action has been taken on it since introduction. (And why not?) Eliminating the federal law may well trigger some states to do away with their own versions, although if you assume Maryland politics will remain as they’re currently composed for the next couple decades you won’t find us on that list. (As I pointed out yesterday, we threaten liberals’ existence on the government teat and they know it.)

But it should be a job for General Assembly Republicans to try and roll back this year’s changes in the next session. In the meantime, while 10 percent may not seem like a lot, imagine a ten percent cut in the state budget – it would roll our expenditures back to FY2013 levels and just about negate the need for our sales tax, which is 11% of revenue according to our most recent budget. That wouldn’t be a rollback to 5%, it would be eliminating the whole enchilada to match Delaware. Or we could cut our income taxes in half.

Ten percent is a lot, even in the limited realm of state construction, and to me it’s better that the people have it than the government. In the case of the capital budget, it’s less bonding we have to pass along to our children. So let’s hope a Governor Craig would have the stiff spine to fight for such a change to prevailing wage, even if Ellen Sauerbrey was a little overly optimistic on its effects.

Blocking access

This week marks nine years since I moved to Maryland from Ohio. While at the beginning this website delved regularly into Ohio politics as a base of comparison (since that was most of my experience at the time), over the years I have worked away from the goings-on in the Buckeye state. But an article regarding the state’s bid to decimate the third party movement piqued my interest, and shamefully it’s backed by the legislative Republicans – all but one GOP State Senator voted for it.

It’s definitely worth pointing out that, in my estimation and memory, the Ohio Republican Party is more Republican than conservative. John Boehner is a good example of an Ohio Republican in that principles come in a distant second to party. Instead of showing leadership in good government, Ohio Republicans cynically shamed the overall GOP by creating one of the most gerrymandered Congressional districts in the country in order to place two liberal incumbents in the same district. (This used to be my district and part of my family lives there, so I have a vested interest.) I guess it should be expected from a party which bent over backwards to avoid primaries for their chosen, “electable” (read: moderate) candidates.

Of course I understand that third party votes generally tend to be siphoned away from the Republican side as opposed to the Democrats. Libertarians have just enough philosophical differences from the Republicans that they tend to draw support from the GOP pool, whereas the Green Party and Democrats are basically two peas in a pod. It’s noticeable to me that the Green Party in Maryland runs relatively few candidates in our state when compared to the Libertarian Party, despite the fact there’s supposedly far more liberal voters than conservative ones.

Yet the Ohio proposal is very draconian for a group which accumulated less than 2 percent of the vote last year. Yes, much of it probably came out of Mitt Romney’s total and it could have cost him the election. But is that the right thing to do? I don’t think it is.

Aside from the insurgent campaign of Ross Perot and the Reform Party, which proved to be a one-year flash in the pan back in 1992, the last time the two-party structure was challenged was the mid-1800s, when the Republican Party was born. All that movement did, though, was supplant the Whigs, which faded from the scene. In the years since, both parties have found agreement on methods to insulate themselves from the prospect of a challenge from other political parties.

I look at it this way: if the Republicans can stand on their ideas they should not be afraid of any challenge. If they want to prevent the rise of a conservative third party, though, they might want to reaffirm themselves to conservative, limited-government principles.

The declaration of (courting) independents

It doesn’t seem like this issue will ever die.

You might recall that after our Maryland GOP Spring Convention earlier this year I posted a piece critiquing the thoughts of Don Murphy, a former Delegate and longtime party activist who has been fighting a crusade for many years to open up the Republican primary to unaffiliated voters, perhaps with the idea of welcoming them to the party eventually. His reasoning seemed sound: a number of like-minded Northeastern states open their primaries because they have a plurality of unaffiliated voters.

But the MDGOP appears to be interested in revisiting the process, as Erin Cox writes in the Baltimore Sun, and it may set us up for yet another contentious convention this fall in Annapolis. And while Brian Griffiths uses the evidence of past election results in his post on Red Maryland today, I honestly believe that’s a little bit of a red herring argument.

In Maryland today, the registration numbers lay out as follows (from the June report):

  • Democrats: 2,073,619 (55.6%)
  • Republicans: 959,120 (25.7%)
  • minor parties – Libertarian, Green, Americans Elect, and other unrecognized: 59,644 (1.6%)
  • unaffiliated: 636,716 (17.1%)

Four years ago at the same point in the cycle, the percentages weren’t a lot different. There are now 300,000 more voters in Maryland, but numerically they line up similarly:

  • Democrats: 1,942,336 (56.9%)
  • Republicans: 909,848 (26.7%)
  • minor parties and other unrecognized: 80,034 (2.3%)
  • unaffiliated: 478,817 (14.0%)

A number of the unaffiliated are likely former Independents, which is no longer a separate category.

And I’m sure some fret that eventually the unaffiliated will catch up to the Republicans – a 3% gain every four years coupled with a 1% loss in Republicans would put that date sometime early next decade. My contention, however, is that there are a significant proportion of Democrats who are so because their primary is the only race they can vote on.

But opening up the GOP primary to unaffiliated voters isn’t going to be enough of a draw for voters who have no local Republican candidates on the ballot for whom to vote. For example, in Prince George’s County’s 2010 primary – perhaps the most unbalanced in the state – once you departed the federal and statewide races there were exactly zero contested GOP races at the legislative level and just two local races (both for Central Committee seats) where the GOP had more contenders than winners. I admire the Prince George’s GOP for their efforts (my “partner in crime” Heather Olsen hails from there) but what would help them more than anything are candidates willing to stand up and hoist the GOP banner. Allowing unaffiliated voters into the GOP primary wouldn’t change the game.

Now I’m sure those who favor the idea will argue I used the most extreme example. Yet even if every single voter not connected with the Democratic Party decided to become a Republican, AND we could attract the 10 percent or so of Democrats statewide who are affiliated that way because their daddy was a Democrat but vote straight-ticket Republican – we’re still a minority. Barely, but still looking at a deficit and up against the hardcore elements of a power-drunk party.

Personally, though, I think the idea seems to come up when the Republicans are threatening to run conservative candidates for office. When I was living in Ohio, their Republican Party always seemed to anoint the most moderate candidate and overtly try and eliminate any more conservative primary competition for that person. And what did we get? Sixteen years of ruining the Republican brand with tax-and-spend governors, particularly Bob Taft. (Unfortunately, John Kasich isn’t doing much better now that he’s been spooked by the unions.)

Here in Maryland, the talk of opening up the primary died down when Bob Ehrlich won and through the three cycles where he was the all-but-endorsed choice of the Maryland GOP apparatus there was no chatter about adding unaffiliated voters to the mix. But now that we have a more spirited competition between several good candidates, the powers-that-be are presumably trying to make sure the most moderate, “electable” candidate prevails. As a conservative, pro-liberty Marylander who would like to see a governor tell the Democrats it’s his way or the highway, I would like a leader and not someone who sticks his finger up to see which way the wind is blowing. Mitt Romney and John McCain were supposed to be “electable” in a way that Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, et. al. were not.

If unaffiliated voters want to vote in a primary, it’s very easy to change your registration to Republican. Get good candidates worth voting for and they will come.

Update: A non-scientific poll by Jackie Wellfonder at Raging Against the Rhetoric found that support was perfectly mixed: 44% for, 44% against, and 12% undecided out of 75 who responded.

One last weekend…

…and everyone wants help! Many of those appeals come from giving the national campaigns a hand in Ohio and Virginia.

(Update: read to the end for vital new information.)

For example, the Maryland GOP (on behalf of Mitt Romney) is going to those battleground states. But they’re also backing events in Harford, Montgomery, Washington, Cecil, and Queen Anne’s counties as well. Most will be Saturday, although the Harford event runs through Monday and the Queen Anne’s sign waving is later this afternoon.

And for those on the Shore who may want to help in Virginia, my friend Melody Scalley is organizing her own Saturday’s worth of activities in several Tidewater-area locations: Norfolk, Newport News, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake. It looks like they’ll be canvassing in 2-3 hour shifts during the day Saturday and one shift in Norfolk on Sunday afternoon. As before, you can contact her at (703) 258-4200 to help out.

Since the extended early voting comes to an end today, volunteers can shift from the polling places out to the neighborhoods.

There’s also been an important change in absentee balloting. An Executive Order signed by Governor O’Malley states:

Registered voters who are out of their county of residence due to Hurricane Sandy are authorized to apply for an absentee ballot up to 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 5, 2012. The State Board of Elections is authorized to electronically deliver absentee ballots to such voters. Completed ballots must be mailed on or before Election Day and received by the local board of elections no later than November 16, 2012.

So those displaced by Sandy will be treated similarly to military voters.

While I’m thinking about voting, here’s more to ponder:

It appears that about 1 in 10 voters overall will opt to vote early, despite the loss of two days earlier this week. Through Wednesday a little over 225,000 voters had already voted early. Compare that to just 11,793 total absentee ballots requested throughout the state.

It’s interesting to note as well that as of Wednesday 41% of Democratic absentee ballots had come back, compared with 34% of Republicans and 31% of unaffiliated. Democrats also have the upper hand insofar as early voting goes, as 7.4% of them statewide have made their choices compared to 4.9% of Republicans and 3 to 4 percent of unaffiliated and minor party members.

What this could mean on election night is that ballot questions and Democratic officeseekers will probably grab an early lead because these votes are actually counted during the day and released right after the polls close. So issues like gay marriage and in-state tuition for illegal aliens may have a seemingly insurmountable 60-40 lead early on, but as rural precincts tend to come in first those leads should evaporate – even as early voting covers about 10% of the electorate, in a Presidential year turnout in Maryland runs around 60 to 70 percent. In both instances, though, it may be a long night.

Update: There is another non-political – but certainly more important – volunteer effort going on tomorrow morning. This comes from my former local blogging cohort Julie Brewington, with emphasis mine:

Please come and help our Neighbors in Crisfield to Recover from Hurricane Sandy TOMORROW!

Please come dress in work attire, waterproof boots, and gloves. Bring a rake if you have one.

Saturday, Nov. 3 at 10 a.m. – Crisfield City Hall Parking lot, 319 W. Main St.

Even if you don’t have any equipment or special skills, we can use your help. To volunteer you should be physically fit and able to do manual labor. Water will be provided, but be prepared to work on sites that do not have basic sanitary services or utilities.

We will endeavor to select sites that are safe, but you must use your own common sense to protect yourself from dangers such as falling trees, submerged holes, and the general danger of being on a worksite with other untrained, unskilled volunteers. You assume all responsibility for your safety by volunteering and we will ask you to sign a release of liability of the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce, the City of Crisfield and the homeowner or property owner we are helping before assigning you to a work crew.

Equipment and skills we need

If you do have skills or equipment, we are in need of the following equipment along with persons who know how to use them:

Chainsaws
Large pickup trucks
Skillsaws
Power drills
Axes
Rakes
Plywood
Gloves
Gasoline for chainsaws

Supplies Needed (Drop Off At The Ambulance Squad Coming Into Town)

Bleach and cleaning supplies (mops, buckets, etc)
Household goods
Gently used clothing
Respirators
Portable Heaters
Blankets
Contractor clean up bags or large black trash bags
Bottled water
Rakes
Plywood
Gloves
Gasoline for chainsaws

Mold Removal is Needed. Please visit this site for Mold Removal Kits, with Household supplies and bring them if you can.

Saturday Volunteers are asked to print and bring signed release.

We will have blank release forms, but anyone wishing to volunteer tomorrow is asked to (sign a) volunteer release form to participate in our cleanup effort. We need to keep track of our volunteer ours for disaster relief purposes. Thank you!

Odds and ends number 62

While this is a Halloween day edition, hopefully you consider this a treat and Sandy hasn’t played any trick on my power which extends past today. (It didn’t.)

Did you know that the media has succeeded in demonizing the TEA Party to a point where it has the most negative connotation among political phrases? This according to Rasmussen, who claims a full 44% have been brainwashed into believing that being a TEA Party candidate is detrimental.

I take it as a badge of honor myself. Now if you’re considered liberal or moderate, that’s not good in my eyes.

Nor is this good – assuming it’s true, of course. I rarely take what this guy says at face value:

We’ve out-registered Republicans in every battleground state for the past THREE months.

Right now, we’ve got a total of more than 14,000,000 registered Democrats in battleground states like Florida and Nevada — that means we have a 2,400,000-person lead over Republicans where it matters the most.

And when it comes to voting early in battleground states, we’re in the lead in important states like Iowa and Ohio — and ahead in ballot requests in Nevada.

In Ohio, all public polling shows that the President has a double-digit lead among those who have voted. And nearly two-thirds of all voter registrations in the state in 2012 were in counties that President Obama won in 2008.

In Iowa, we lead in vote-by-mail ballots cast, in-person early voting, total voting, and total ballots requested. We also lead by a wider margin than we did at this point in 2008 in both ballots requested and cast. (All emphasis in original.)

Of course, that’s all subjective: registering voters doesn’t always translate to votes. This Politico story by Adrian Gray points out that Democrat turnout in Ohio’s early voting is down 220,000 compared to 2008 while the GOP is up 30,000. If that’s true, not all of these voters Obama is registering are going into his column. One could even speculate that Obama wants these early votes because people are changing their minds late and moving to Romney.

Meanwhile, one group is helpfully reminding non-citizens that for them, voting is illegal and could carry a severe penalty. Some will call it voter suppression and intimidation, but the law is the law. As Help Save Maryland notes:

While a few Maryland jurisdictions allow non-citizens to vote in their local elections, in general, non-citizens who vote in Maryland federal and state elections may be subject to fines, imprisonment and/or deportation.  Even registering to vote, or encouraging other non-citizens to register to vote, is a serious crime in Maryland, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

The problem has been made worse by Maryland’s past history of giving drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens. And organizations, such as CASA de Maryland, which provide services to illegal aliens, have posted notices in Spanish outside their facilities about helping people register to vote.

Another reason English should be our official language.

Someone else who is working against the grain assessed his two opponents succinctly after a recent debate:

(In this radio debate) both Senator Cardin and Rob Sobhani reaffirmed their commitments to a ‘government first’ economic recovery plan. While Senator Cardin believes this can be accomplished through increased taxes and increased government spending, Mr. Sobhani continues to campaign disingenuously by attempting to sway Marylanders for their votes with pie in the sky campaign promises that the Washington Post is calling ‘half-baked’. This is what we have come to expect from typical Washington insiders.

I am the only candidate making an ironclad promise to the citizens of our great state not to raise your taxes and to get the government out of your way, allowing our economy to return to growth and prosperity.

And the message seems to be working for Dan Bongino, as he continues to outraise his opponents combined. It’s unfortunate that their local debate was a casualty of Hurricane Sandy because I wanted to ask Sobhani about the concept of privatizing profit while socializing risk – if he can get $5.5 billion in investment, why not do it now?

A message that press guru Jim Pettit (the spokesperson for Change Maryland) has gotten out to a wider audience was recently featured on National Review Online. He writes about the Genuine Progress Indicator that Martin O’Malley is trying to foist on Maryland in lieu of actual job creation and true economic advancement. I spoke about it more on this post.

It’s telling to me that as O’Malley’s national profile increases, so does the reach of Change Maryland and, by extension, Pettit and Larry Hogan. Being a thorn in O’Malley’s side is obviously a popular gig.

So hopefully you’re in the process of recovering from Sandy if it affected you. Sorry I had to put up some seriously scary items on Halloween, but we could face an even scarier future one week from now if the current regime remains in place.

Upon further review…

You can tell I was beat last night when I wrote my previous post – driving for the better part of 10 hours will do that to a body.

But there was a key element I forgot to bring up about the 1,100 mile overall trip I took with Kim and her daughter to see my daughter become a wife. I saw a lot of farm fields, cows, and even a few horses and buggies riding through Ohio’s Amish country. One thing I didn’t see, though, was a whole lot of Obama or Romney signs or stickers in the two states which are considered the “battleground” states of my trip – Ohio and Pennsylvania.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some element of politics at play, and perhaps the fact I did the vast majority of the driving along interstate highways may have had something to do with the dearth of political propaganda. This may have been particularly true in Pennsylvania, where the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-70 simply served as a conduit for my passage. But it seemed the only place where I saw Romney and Obama battle it out was in Maryland, and that was a one-sided contest in Mitt Romney’s favor. Most of these signs were along U.S. 50 on the Eastern Shore.

Yet even driving through Ohio it seemed like there was much more interest in Josh Mandel’s U.S. Senate campaign than in the presidential sweepstakes. I saw a number of his signs dotting the landscape of rural northeastern and central Ohio. Similarly, there were quite a few Dan Bongino signs in Maryland with far fewer calling for Ben Cardin’s re-election.

Obviously these anecdotal results are skewed by the small, relatively conservative enclaves I drove through – perhaps driving through Montgomery or Prince George’s counties or through suburban Cleveland one is regularly greeted by signs professing undying support for Democratic candidates. That may mean a little more as these roads are somewhat more heavily traveled than the byways through Amish country in Ohio or U.S. 50 on the Shore. (On the other hand, a pocket of rural Obama support can be found just across the state line in Virginia through some of the hamlets along U.S. 13. The small Obama yard signs are in front of houses ranging from decently kept to barely structurally sound shacks, while the larger Romney, Scott Rigell, and George Allen signs are usually next to farm fields.)

But there is a value in yard signs as well. When I dabbled in precinct organization, I always wanted to have more yard signs on the block than the other guy did. If I couldn’t do that, I wanted at least one because it presented the fact that not everyone was willing to follow the commonly accepted norm that Democrats were entitled to rule my birthplace by fiat. Now while I rarely won the overall war, I think I did pretty well in my own precinct – not much of a consolation prize, but one nonetheless.

Yet that’s how political battles are won – one precinct at a time. Moreover, areas where one is strong can be used to provide more help to weaker areas. That’s why it burns me – and many others – up when resources which can be used to pick up the parts of (and races in) Maryland which serve as chinks in the armor of the majority party here are instead diverted to other states. While the other side is off trying to tip the scales someplace else, we can be effective in a rear guard action and plant our flag in a place they wrongly believed was safe.

Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up on November 7 realizing we have not only preserved a Constitutional republic by ousting a President thoroughly detrimental to America’s interests but removed a Senator who hasn’t held an honest job in four-and-a-half decades and picked up a couple House seats from right out under the nose of the Democratic establishment? I believe it’s quite doable, so let’s get to work!

The varied reaction to MOM

Obviously I have my differences with our governor, but when he misinterprets the state of the state of my birth, Ohio, well, that’s not going to stand.

For those of you who don’t know this – and I wager that’s most of you, because your backgrounds are in Maryland – Ohio was doing so-so for awhile under a pair of moderate Republican governors, George Voinovich (who went on to become a U.S. Senator) and Bob Taft. (We won’t count the 11 days Lt. Gov. Nancy Hollister was a caretaker between terms.) Unfortunately, Governor Taft was sort of like Ohio’s answer to Martin O’Malley and poisoned the well for a far superior Republican (Ken Blackwell) to succeed him in 2006. (Blackwell should have succeeded Voinovich in 1998, but the Ohio GOP is smarter than the voters, or so they seem to think. They convinced Ken it wasn’t his turn yet.)

Anyway, the upshots were these: the economy in Ohio got so bad that I moved to Maryland 8 years ago, and that 2006 wasn’t just a bad year for the GOP in Maryland but they also lost the gubernatorial election in Ohio as well, ending a 16-year GOP run. Ted Strickland became governor and promptly was even more of a disaster than Taft, which says a lot. In 2010, Strickland became the first Ohio governor to lose his re-election bid since fellow Democrat John Gilligan did in 1974.

(Trivia: John Gilligan is the father of former Kansas governor and now-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.)

Yet Martin O’Malley deigned to criticize current Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican elected in 2010, in remarks made to the Ohio delegation to the Democratic National Convention. “If there’s one place to find buyer’s remorse, it’s Ohio,” O’Malley commented.

Of course, that “ultimate thorn in O’Malley’s side” (h/t Jackie Wellfonder) known as Change Maryland did a little digging into Ohio’s job creation record and found out that Kasich’s state had created three times more jobs than Maryland did since Kasich took office (122,500 vs. 37,300) and while Ohio’s cost of doing business has plummeted from 29th to 6th best in the country, Maryland continues to rank in the bottom 10.

While Ohio has roughly twice the population of Maryland, that doesn’t cover the fact it’s creating three times the number of jobs as Maryland is – not to mention Maryland has the advantage of nearby Washington, D.C. Like certain portions of Maryland off the I-95 corridor, Ohio has to work to use its own assets and not sponge off the government.

Change Maryland also took potshots at O’Malley’s record here at home, creating a “top 10” list of O’Malley’s economic fallacies. I could go through that as well but, to be quite honest, in that battle of wits the Governor is coming up far short like that hapless mouse in the corner. I do have to quote Change Maryland head Larry Hogan’s reaction to MOM’s speech before the national Democrats:

Governor O’Malley talks a lot about ‘moving forward’ but here in Maryland his policies have slammed us into reverse and have us stuck in a ditch.

(snip)

Under Martin O’Malley, Maryland lags behind our region in attracting jobs, businesses and those who pay taxes.  Make no mistake, modern investments in a modern economy is just code language for more tax-and-spend governing like we have had here in Maryland.

Not to be outdone, 2014 candidate David Craig felt compelled to criticize his would-be predecessor’s DNC performance as well:

This past Sunday, Governor Martin O’Malley, in a brief moment of candor, set aside his usual smoke and mirrors to admit that we are not better off today then we were four years ago. In a statement, which he immediately attempted to spin and retract, Governor O’Malley admitted what the people of Maryland have known as fact for years: both President Obama and Governor O’Malley have failed to curb record unemployment and revive a depressed economy. Most importantly, we know that we cannot survive 4 more years of these failed policies, which have led us down a path of endless tax hikes, ever-increasing deficits, and countless unfunded mandates.

After realizing his political mistake, Governor O’Malley proved once again that he is out of touch with the average Marylander. Governor O’Malley went on to say “…but that’s not the question of this election.”

(snip)

O’Malley, a frequent surrogate for President Obama, said Tuesday evening that the President’s policies “have moved America forward.” Can Marylanders honestly trust the Governor’s opinion of the past four years, after he raised taxes on the middle class and shifted millions of dollars in unfunded mandates to local government? The reality is Maryland has suffered a double dose of failed policies under the leadership of Governor O’Malley and President Obama.

Craig is definitely in a position to know about those unfunded mandates as a County Executive.

But more importantly, the economic disaster of the last four-plus years IS the question of this election. We have had three “recovery summers” without recovery, “shovel-ready jobs” which neither needed a shovel nor were ready – because they were never created – and, despite the fact it was “all about that three-letter word: J-O-B-S,” it seems it was really all about making as many people as possible dependent on a government check.

Fellow gubernatorial hopeful Blaine Young was more succinct (and humorous):

Martin O’Malley traveled to North Carolina to ‘tell the Barack Obama story’. Naturally Governor O’Malley wouldn’t want to tell the Maryland story because as Governor, he dumped $2.4 billion in tax increases on the residents of Maryland.

With a record like that I’d want to run away and not tell the Martin O’Malley story too.

Maryland is facing unprecedented challenges, from budget issues, to unfunded pension liabilities, to increased mandates on local governments and increased regulations on businesses, and Martin O’Malley is acting like an absentee landlord – draining Maryland taxpayer resources while in North Carolina focused on his own political gains.

It’s interesting to note that O’Malley has addressed pretty much everyone else in the country except for Marylanders. I’m not interested in seeing him on the television daily from a different location in the state, but once in awhile would be nice. I’m sure Mrs. O’Malley would like to see him home on occasion too.

I’m not sure where this came from, but I’m in possession of a series of talking points presumably put out by the O’Malley administration. The very first one states “Maryland has recovered over two-thirds of the jobs lost in the Bush recession – the 11th fastest rate in the nation.” Must be nice having a thriving Washington, D.C. next door.

But read that sentence again. We have been out of the recession since sometime in 2009, but we’ve only made up 2/3 of the ground in three years (after a recession which lasted less than two years, and actually began once Democrats took over Congress.) Obviously I have no context as to which states are ahead of or behind us, but that’s not something really worth bragging about.

These talking points also claim that Maryland has the third-lowest state and local tax burden as a percentage of income and the ninth lowest state and local taxes in the country. But there’s no need to keep shooting for number one! Nor does this distinguish between fees and taxes, even though we all know “a fee is a tax.” For example, does the $60 a year “flush tax” get included in that tax burden study?

Even Dan Bongino got into the act, neatly tying his opponent Ben Cardin into O’Malley’s statement:

As Maryland continues to hemorrhage businesses and jobs, Governor Martin O’Malley finally admits, on behalf of the administration, that we are not collectively better off than we were four years ago.

Senator Ben Cardin’s blind support of the current administration’s economic policies has severely damaged our nation’s economic well-being and, as a result, too many Marylanders are struggling to survive in this brutal economic condition. Mr. Cardin’s support of the Obama administration’s — and that of the Annapolis machine’s — irresponsible fiscal policies have made it extremely difficult for businesses to thrive in our state.

And if businesses don’t thrive, jobs aren’t created, and economic prosperity is impossible to come by. Seems like a logical progression to me.

Martin O’Malley actually told the truth for once, but you’ll notice he spun away from his statement just as fast as his little words would carry him.

Why add to the debt?

Obviously this post I cite is an oversimplification of the educational approach needed for many children, but I thought it was appropriate to point this out given the fact a small group of parents – backed by an all-powerful school board and sympathetic County Executive and newspaper – are putting big-time pressure on our County Council to approve the debt necessary to build a new middle school.

But Richard F. Miniter, a writer posting on the American Thinker website, makes the case that education can be as simple as applying a little discipline and effort, given the vast library now available to anyone who has an e-reader and cares enough about their child to make sure they learn. And there is a time savings, as Miniter writes:

It also sums down to a little block of time because without having to get ready for the school bus; the bus ride; dispersing to classroom; disciplinary issues in classrooms; having to raise your hand to go to the bathroom; noisy, chaotic hallways scenes every fifty minutes; noisy, chaotic lunch periods; announcements; fire drills; lectures about bullying, respecting alternative lifestyles, or strangers; then preparing for the bus ride home, followed by homework, one can do a better job with a child in two hours than a traditional school classroom setting can in eight.

Now extrapolate that to the building itself. If one can learn in the small space of time allotted to learning at home, it can also be assumed that learning can be achieved in a regular school building, regardless of the age.

Continue reading “Why add to the debt?”