Democrats are still trying to figure out why they lost the gubernatorial election. Naturally, this process will continue for some time. But Democrats might as well begin by dispensing with some of the popular but unhelpful myths floating around.
1. Hogan’s Election was a Fluke
Some Democrats seeking comfort in the results have concluded that it was a bad year for Democrats and assume matters will revert to normal soon enough. Population shifts towards the Washington area and minority groups make this inevitable. This myth makes Republicans gleeful as it invites further complacency among Democrats rather than a serious assessment.
2. Democrats Needed a More Progressive Candidate
In an odd cracked mirror reflection of Republicans who think that John McCain and Mitt Romney were not conservative enough, this myth’s advocates contend that the base wasn’t excited because Anthony Brown was not sufficiently left wing. But it’s just not credible that Brown would have won more votes through advocacy of greater spending hikes for government programs and the taxation needed to pay for them.
3. If Only Brown had Run a Positive Campaign
Negative advertisements can be quite effective. Politicians and political consultants don’t use them because they are nasty people with twisted souls. Consider Governor-Elect Hogan’s relentless attacks on tax increases by Governor O’Malley.
Like most good myths, the one contains a kernel of truth in that improvements could have been made to the campaign, including a stronger case as to why to vote for Brown and a vibrant defense of the accomplishments of the O’Malley-Brown administration. Moreover, the negative ads on choice failed to convince because Hogan made clear he considers this a settled question.
Del. Heather Mizeur argued most passionately for strictly positive campaigns, most pointedly in her Baltimore Sun opinion piece. But though lamenting negative campaigning, the piece feels like one long negative attack on the man who beat her in the primary, which rather undercuts her central point.
4. The Message is Fine
As several Democrats have said forthrightly, voters in Maryland chose the correct candidate if they don’t want further increases in taxes to provide for more progressive policies. Except that they say this not realizing that this is exactly why people were ready for a change. Hogan campaigned for tax reduction and less regulation and Marylanders liked it.
Perhaps their sentiments will change after a certain amount of time moving in the other direction. But Democrats should fear that Hogan’s mix of moderation of social issues and economic conservatism could prove powerfully attractive, particularly if he pursues it in a practical and balanced way.
Again, Democrats have fallen into the Republican trap. Many Republicans view that taxes can never be cut too low with religious fervor (e.g. Sam Brownback in Kansas) and fail to recognize that taxes are needed to provide for government services that are broadly supported such as education. However, the number of Democrats who view ever higher increases in taxation as desirable and wise with a parallel ideological fervor has grown.
I look forward to hearing the ideas that Democrats have for moving forward even as they analyze past mistakes. While change can be difficult, adjustments could prove easier than expected and help Maryland–and not just the Democrats–make progress.