Some centrist Democrats in Maryland are so afraid of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous’ platform that they’re choosing the current Republican administration.
Last week, The Washington Post reported that top-ranking Democratic officials in Maryland are either refusing to endorse Jealous — the former NAACP president who easily beat his closest rival in the Democratic primary by nine points — or are siding with Governor Larry Hogan (R), who is battling for re-election in the traditionally blue state.
Montgomery County executive Isiah Leggett, who represents the state’s most populous county, has reportedly not yet endorsed Jealous, saying he has reservations about Jealous’ calls for higher taxes on the wealthy and a state-based universal healthcare system. And Maryland senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. recently praised Gov. Hogan — who vetoed paid sick leave as well as efforts to depend more on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels — for “governing from the middle.”
Other centrist Democrats in the more rural and suburban parts of Maryland are opting to outright endorse Hogan rather than stick with their party’s nominee. More than 40 prominent Democrats in the state have endorsed Hogan’s candidacy, and Gov. Hogan has gloated about the endorsements on his official Twitter account:
Former Hagerstown City Councilman John Schnebly: “I am a lifelong Democrat and will continue to be so. However, I am proud to endorse Larry Hogan’s reelection campaign for governor.” #MDGov #MDPolitics #DemocratsforHogan pic.twitter.com/55cO4g5Epu
— Larry Hogan (@LarryHogan) July 13, 2018
The steady trickle of centrist Democrats endorsing a Republican are particularly shocking, given that many centrists criticized Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) for allegedly helping Republicans by suggesting Democrats adopt a more progressive policy platform. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank made this argument in 2017, saying “Bernie bros and sisters are coming to the Republicans’ rescue” by “sowing division in the Democratic Party and attempting to enact a purge of the ideologically impure.”
Milbank’s argument was that ever since the conservative purity movement of the late 2000s and early 2010s, Republicans have become “an ungovernable mess” with the base insisting that the people they elect adhere to strict conservative principles. However, Milbank seems to forget that during former President Barack Obama’s administration, Democrats lost an unprecedented number of state legislative and Congressional seats, as well as governors, to Republicans running on ideological purity.
As FiveThirtyEight pointed out in a 2017, article, Democrats saw the percentage of state legislative seats they controlled dwindle from 59 percent to just 31 percent over the eight years Obama was in the White House. The number of Democratic governors also steeply decline from 29 in 2009 to just 16 after the 2016 election. By and large, the current Democratic Party rank-and-file is becoming younger, more diverse, and more progressive, according to FiveThirtyEight. This would help explain why 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was able to defeat a well-funded Democratic incumbent in line to be the next Speaker of the House and subsequently take the nation by storm.
The Maryland governor’s race shouldn’t be a tough contest, given the fact that the state chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a 27-point margin. However, if centrist Democrats continue refusing to embrace what the party’s rank-and-file wants, Gov. Hogan just may win a second term after all.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.