By Adam Pagnucco.
Democrats all over the country have lately been demanding that Confederate statues and other monuments celebrating slavery be taken down. That extends to Maryland, where Baltimore Mayor Cathy Pugh had four Confederate monuments removed in the middle of the night. But when Maryland Democrats demanded that an Annapolis statue of former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney also be removed, they ran into opposition from arguably the state’s most powerful Democratic politician: Senate President Mike Miller.
Democrats’ objections to Taney are rooted in his authoring of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, which held that descendants of Africans imported as slaves into the U.S. could not be American citizens. In 2015, Governor Larry Hogan defended the Taney statue in Annapolis in the Washington Post.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) says he is opposed to a change in the state song and likened the effort to calls for removing the statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, author of the pro-slavery Dred Scott decision, from the grounds of the State House.
“It’s political correctness run amok,” Hogan said in an interview last week. “Where do we stop? Do we get rid of the George Washington statues out here and take down all the pictures from all the people from the Colonial era that were slave owners? Do we change the name of Washington County, Carroll County and Calvert County?
“You can’t change history, and we’re not going to be able to rewrite history,” Hogan said. “And I don’t think we ought to be changing any of that.”
After Democrats including House Speaker Mike Busch pushed back this week, Hogan changed his mind and agreed to remove the statue. The Governor was one of three members of the four-member board with jurisdiction over the statue to vote for removal. But one member of the board objected to the process of deciding the issue by email: Senate President Mike Miller. In his letter, Miller argued that Taney opposed slavery and “freed his slaves early in his life,” joined an “anti-kidnapping society” to protect free blacks and remained loyal to the Union until his death. Miller also cited support for the statue from former Baltimore City Delegate Pete Rawlings and a descendant of Dred Scott. We reprint the letter below.
Whatever one thinks of Miller’s opinion, it’s a big headache for Maryland Democrats. Much of their strategy to oppose Governor Hogan has been to criticize him for silence in the face of actions by President Donald Trump. That strategy has affected the behavior of the Governor, who just said that Trump “made a terrible mistake” in his comments on the white supremacist invasion of Charlottesville. But what of Miller? If his comments on the Taney statue had come from Hogan, Maryland Democrats would be swarming all over him. What happens when such sentiments come from one of the most powerful Democrats in the state?
One Democrat who did not blanch from criticizing the Senate President was Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18), who is running for Governor. Madaleno wrote on Facebook that Miller “is wrong.”
The rest of the Democrats now have a choice. They can be intellectually honest and take on one of the leaders of their party. Or they can ignore Miller and look like hypocrites.
As with Hogan on Trump, silence is not an option.