The Washington Post took Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-1), a candidate for county executive, to the proverbial woodshed for having the temerity to compare David Blair, their preferred candidate to Donald Trump.
That ship had already sailed when George Leventhal made the same comparison to another businessman candidate, David Trone, so it’s not exactly unexpected.
Where the comparison breaks down is that David Blair is by all accounts not a narcissistic, racist, sexist, congenitally lying bigot who enjoys publicly abusing people and acting inappropriately on the campaign trail in ways that demean himself and the office. Unlike Trump, Blair strikes me as very confident rather than supremely insecure and in need of constant reassurance. He also possesses the ability to listen and to take in new information.
The comparison nevertheless has some validity. Running a county government is vastly different from running a corporation, as many business executives who have entered public office have quickly discovered. While Blair thinks he can quickly build relationships with the new Council, it’s just not going to be that simple. They wouldn’t be his employees and may have completely different, even opposed goals. Victory with less than 40 percent in a Democratic primary is hardly likely to inspire deference.
Voters also have some reason not to trust the Washington Post’s judgement in this matter – not so much because of their centrist ideology but their track record. The apt comparison is not to Donald Trump but to the last time the Post wrote multiple editorials endorsing a local business outsider: Sharon Pratt Dixon.
In a series of avid, page long editorials the Post made the case for Dixon for mayor of the District of Columbia in 1990. At the time, the city was in crisis at the time with many governmental functions breaking down, people leaving the city, and Mayor Marion Barry under arrest on drug charges. (Throughout the campaign, a local program at 11:35 on weeknights called “Mayor Barry’s Day in Court” kept us depressingly up to date.)
The Post argued rightly that that the city needed someone who was more than just not Marion Barry but a proponent of major reform. They argued passionately, but it turned out wrongly, that Dixon was that person. Dixon was a wonderful speaker who articulated a great vision but showed no ability to carry it out after winning the Democratic primary with 34% of the vote.
Her failure led to her coming in third in the 1994 primary with just 13%. The winner was Marion Barry, a born pol, with 47%, leaving the District back where it started. It took Anthony Williams, who had experience as the city’s CFO, to lead the city a positive new direction and make changes that still matter a lot today.
So the Post may be right about Blair. If you like him and his ideas, that’s great. But don’t let the Post’s strong conviction in their choice sway you too much. The Post focuses very strongly on the District these days in their local coverage. Your knowledge of the local scene may well be better and your intuition about what Montgomery needs just as valid.