Category Archives: Democrats

Playing Trump’s Game III: Old, White Men

About the worst epithet among Democrats as of late is “old, white men.” At best, this approach demonstrates a total lack of self-awareness in a party that adores Bernie Sanders. More to the point, it is oblivious engagement in exactly the sort of ageist, racist, and sexist behavior that Democrats claim to hate fervently.

It’s also a lousy way to attract voters. As it turns out, old, white men don’t like being stereotyped negatively any more than, say, young, black men. Needless to say, the right-wing media will be sure to highlight every single incident and even invent a few more. This thoughtless throwaway dig is a cheap and effective way to kiss goodbye to nice slices of the electorate by all but gift wrapping them for the Republicans.

White women, who often patiently work their way up the ladder to find themselves shunted aside once they reach a certain age, may also not appreciate the total celebration of youth over experience. This doesn’t mean ignoring the interests of younger voters on such issues as education affordability. It simply requires not denigrating older voters or experience.

It should be obvious but Democrats should stay out of the business of negatively stereotyping anyone for their identity characteristics. Advocacy on issues of particular interest to specific communities doesn’t require putting other people down based on their age, race, or gender.

In the last gubernatorial election, now-Rep. Anthony Brown hemorrhaged white support. If Maryland Democrats want to win back the Governor’s office, they shouldn’t insult big chunks of the largest group of voters in the state. Gov. Larry Hogan is not making this mistake with nonwhite constituencies.


Playing Trump’s Game II: White Privilege

(See the introduction of this series in Part I: Are Democrats Buying into Trumps’s Narrative?)

There is a reason that Democratic congressional candidates who have made striking gains from Kansas to Montana to Georgia haven’t included “check your privilege” in their stump speeches.

Democratic appeals to working-class whites as screwed by the system and middle-class whites as under enormous pressure don’t even get a chance to work when the party simultaneously says they’re privileged. It’s easy to understand why people living paycheck to paycheck who feel bad they can’t get their kid something nice for Christmas resent being called privileged.

The privilege narrative communicates that Democrats think whites have everything handed to them. Most people, even if they acknowledge the advantages that gave them a leg up, think their talents and striving played a critical role in their achievements. Moreover, parents of all races hope to help their kids get ahead.

As a result, focus on racial advantage comes across to individual white voters as a dismissal of their problems and a denigration of their success. Exhorting whites to “check their privilege” is heard as telling them to shut up and that their interests should go to the back of the line. Not a winning appeal to any group.

Some argue that one only needs to explain white privilege properly to white people. But when a party’s message requires defensive explanation—and not one amenable to a sound bite—it is already losing. In any case, once you’ve told voters that their concerns should count less, they’re not even interested in listening.

It’s easy to deride white voters as “snowflakes” if they don’t cotton to white privilege narratives. Of course, this approach just adds to the perceived insult. Said snowflakes will continue melting away if they sense Democrats disrespect them. In other words, there is a real cost when privileged progressive whites say “check your privilege” to show (off) their cultural sensitivity.

My point is not to debate the veracity of white privilege but to argue that it is a political loser. As a message, it sets one group against another, which is exactly the game that Trump likes to play. Losing elections, of course, prevents Democrats from enacting meaningful measures like those taken by Maryland Democrats on issues from policing and sentencing reform to the DREAM Act.

Making one’s case in the context of a unifying American narrative has broader appeal. One reason the DREAM Act had so much support was that it appealed directly to a thread running through American history. Descendants of immigrants can understand well the desire of people to come here to work hard for a better life.

Of course, the bill’s title echoed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech in which he warned America of the dire consequences of ignoring black demands for justice but also inspired by calling for America live up to the best of its ideals in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.


Playing Trump’s Game I: Are Democrats Buying Into Trump’s Narrative?

Talking about race is rarely easy. In the wake of the 2016 election, it has become even more difficult on the Left because many people are understandably very angry and fearful. America elected a candidate who freely trafficked in racist and sexist rhetoric during his campaign. Trump attacked Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Muslims, Jews, and revealed his misogyny towards women in both business and politics.

Much of that anger, hurt and fear has been directed towards whites, whose increased support for the Republican candidate was crucial to his election. People who wanted to believe that America is better than Donald Trump were deeply let down by their fellow citizens, overwhelmingly white, who voted for them.

Maryland Republicans, like U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland Sen. Gail Bates and Del. Kathy Szeliga have stood with him. Gov. Larry Hogan has mostly stayed strategically silent but backed Trump’s divisive actions on immigration and other areas.

Some have argued that Democrats should just give up on most white voters, as too racist and a shrinking part of the electorate. This viewpoint dangerously oversimplifies. Although whites threw the election to Donald Trump, they also gave enough votes to Barack Obama to make him president twice. Indeed, Barack Obama gained a higher share of the white vote in 2008 than Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or John Kerry won when they ran for president.

Moreover, Democrats don’t need to win back most white voters in order to win—even small gains among whites would have been enough to deprive Trump of his electoral college victory. Giving up on white voters is political folly. Increases in the rising black, Latino and Asian vote won’t be enough alone to win many of the states moving in the Democratic direction, at least in the medium term.

Additionally, geographic distribution renders capturing more white votes key to Democratic control of federal and state legislatures as well as the presidency. In Maryland, white votes will determine the outcome of legislative elections in most seats targeted by Republicans, such as those held by Sens. Kathy Klausmeier and Jim Mathias, and whether Democrats retain their ability to overturn gubernatorial vetoes in both houses  of the legislature.

All of the anger and fear whipped up by Trump has engendered outrage helpful in whipping up Democrats to fight Trump’s many excesses and to mobilize for the next election. To the extent that outrage buys into rhetoric that supports Trump’s framing of politics in racial terms and perceived by whites as hostile, it aids Trump’s efforts to unify whites behind him and further divide the country.

Democrats also cannot assume that they will retain as high a share of nonwhite votes. A less polarizing Republican candidate could easily attract more of the voters that Trump worked so hard to alienate in 2016. Trump left them with little choice but many would welcome conservative candidates who were not viscerally hostile.

Fortunately, most of this sort of rhetoric is easy for Democrats to avoid without giving up on either the party’s economic or equality agenda. Treating whites with respect and taking their interests seriously is not a zero-sum game that requires disrespecting and ignoring African-American, Latino, or other nonwhite voters.  As it turns out, raising people up and promoting fuller inclusion and equality does not require dividing America on racial lines. The bad news is that, based on progressive social media feeds, this seems unlikely to occur.

In the current state of polarization and heightened outrage among both parties, racial topics have become virtually toxic unless one goes reiterates dominant viewpoints with accusations of racism and sexism ready to fly among both Democrats and Republicans. As a result, these posts focusing on how Democrats can better white voters may jar some readers.

Nonetheless, over the next few days, I hope to outline a few narratives that Democrats should avoid if they want to expand their coalition to include more white voters. This doesn’t mean I think there are not issues particular to specific other key, important Democratic constituencies. By acting more politically adroit, Democrats will be better positioned to address them. Democrats need to think strategically and not play Trump’s game of racial fear and division.


MoCo Democrats, It’s Time for Change

By Adam Pagnucco.

December 13 will be an important date for the fortunes of Democrats across the State of Maryland.  It’s not because that is the date of a primary election; that won’t happen for another year and a half.  It’s not because a critical piece of legislation will be passing; the General Assembly won’t be in session.  And it won’t be because Donald Trump will decide that being President isn’t worth it (although one can dream).

December 13 is the day on which the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will select its new officers.  And it comes at a critical time for county Democrats, as well as party members all over the state.

When MCDCC is acknowledged by the general public at all, it is usually because of its power under the state’s constitution to fill state legislative vacancies.  But the Central Committee does far more than that.  Its principal purposes are to build the party, support Democratic candidates and turn out its members to vote.  Every four years, the county party raises more than $200,000 for state and local elections and more than $700,000 for federal elections.  Major uses of funds include voter registration, production of the party’s sample ballot, coordinated campaigning with Democratic candidates in general elections and overhead associated with the party’s office in Kensington.

MoCo’s Democratic Party has played a fabled role in state politics for many years.  It is by far the wealthiest local party organization in the state.  It draws on hundreds of precinct officials and other activists for volunteer activities.  It has delivered hundreds of thousands of votes to statewide candidates like former Governors William Donald Schaefer, Parris Glendening and Martin O’Malley, none of whom represented MoCo in their prior positions.  The party’s influence has been so extensive that statewide Democratic nominees could offset their losses in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore by racking up votes in MoCo, thereby leaving the Baltimore suburbs as the battle ground in which most races are decided.

But those halcyon days are coming to an end.  The MoCo Democratic Party is in trouble, and that means the state Democratic Party is also in trouble.  Consider the following.

Turnout of MoCo Democrats Has Plummeted in Gubernatorial General Elections

In recent years, federal Democratic candidates almost always win across Maryland in presidential elections outside of the GOP-packed First Congressional District.  The real purpose of the party apparatus is to win the races for Governor.  From 1990 through 2006, MoCo played an outsize role in Democratic gubernatorial victories.  Turnout rates among MoCo Democrats varied from 62% to 69% and, aside from Robert Ehrlich’s win in 2002, contributed heavily to Democratic victories.  But turnout among MoCo Democrats fell to 55% in 2010 and 45% in 2014.  Part of that was due to soaring voter registrations during the Obama years.  But the absolute number of MoCo Democrats who voted declined by nearly 20,000 between 2006 and 2014.  Simply put, the county party has lost its ability to turn out its members for gubernatorial general elections.


MoCo Democrats Contribute Fewer Votes to Statewide Races

From 1990 through 2006, roughly 10% of all votes in gubernatorial general elections came from MoCo Democrats.  This was a major factor in wins by Schaefer, Glendening and O’Malley.  But MoCo Democrats accounted for 9.6% of total votes in 2010 and 9.3% in 2014, the lowest percentages in decades.  Let’s put it another way.  Between 2006 and 2014, the total number of votes in gubernatorial elections decreased by 60,928.  The number of votes cast by MoCo Democrats declined by 19,653.  That means MoCo Democrats accounted for nearly one-third of all voter losses statewide over two cycles.


Finally, consider this.  Larry Hogan won the Governor’s race in 2014 by 65,510 votes.  If the turnout rate among MoCo Democrats in 2014 was the same as it was in 2006, they would have cast an additional 77,375 votes.  The decline of the MoCo Democratic Party played a huge role in putting Larry Hogan into Government House.

Why is this happening?  Let’s recall that 2006 was a recent peak of party performance and two massive changes in campaigning have happened since: the rise of political email and the rise of political social media.  Those two things contributed mightily to the success of Barack Obama.  State and local candidates across Maryland use them aggressively.  But not MCDCC.  The party’s Facebook page is devoid of interesting content and has just over 1,000 likes in a county that has nearly 400,000 registered Democrats.  Its email program is practically non-existent.  The party does almost nothing to promote the successes of Democratic elected officials and makes no case against the state’s GOP Governor, who has a 66% job approval rating in MoCo.  Even the party’s clunky sample ballot, a vestige of a time when paper was the primary means of political communication, was only mailed out this year to newly registered Democrats when it was once mailed out to all.

MCDCC desperately needs new, aggressive and modern leadership.  It needs leaders who understand how to campaign in the 21st Century.  It needs leaders who are committed to reaching out to people of color and immigrants who disproportionately do not vote in gubernatorial general elections.  It needs a new culture of innovation, a culture which values trying new things over and over until some of them actually work.

MoCo Democrats, it’s time for change.

Will we get it?


O’Malley Not Seeking DNC Chair

From Martin O’Malley:

Fellow Democrat –

On November 8, the Democratic party and our country suffered a major setback. Now more than ever, we need to listen to one another and work to repair what has been torn apart.

While I’m grateful to the supportive friends who have urged me to consider running for DNC Chair, I will not be seeking our Party’s Chairmanship. The DNC needs a Chair who can do the job fully and with total impartiality. The national interest must come first.

In the days ahead, my family and I will continue to do everything in our power to fight for the Democratic Party, and for the more compassionate and inclusive country that we carry in our hearts.

“We are one, our cause is one, and we must help each other if we are to succeed.”



Division at Unity Rally?

The Democratic Unity Rally may not have been the best way to demonstrate that Maryland Democrats are united moving from primary seats towards November.

On the good news front, Joseline Peña-Melnyk and Glenn Ivey both showed up and were gracious in their support of Democratic Fourth Congressional District Nominee Anthony Brown.

From the Eighth Congressional District, Kumar Barve and Joel Rubin came and lent support to Democratic Nominee Jamie Raskin. (UPDATE: Will Jawando was there too.) David Trone, Kathleen Matthews and Ana Sol Gutierrez were not there but I know that both Trone and Matthews have endorsed Raskin. No information on Gutierrez but I’d be surprised if she was not supportive of her colleague in the General Assembly.

The biggest rift remains from the U.S. Senate race. Rep. Donna Edwards was noticeably absent after her tough loss to colleague Chris Van Hollen. People in the Edwards camp believe she was badly treated by establishment Democrats and the Washington Post.

Frankly, I think these day-after the election events are a bit hard on the candidates. All are exhausted from lack of sleep and emotions are often understandably raw. I admire the people who didn’t win for showing up – it’s a good, gracious, and right thing to do.

But I can also understand those who just need a moment. Regardless, I look forward to moves in coming days by both Edwards and Van Hollen to help bring Democrats together.


Ten Most Conservative Democratic Senators


While yesterday’s post focused on the most progressive members of the Democratic Senate Caucus, today 7S looks at the most conservative Democrats using the same data provided by Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty of state legislator ideology. Remember that a more negative score indicates a more progressive senator, so the bottom of the table indicates the most conservative senators. These scores are for the legislator’s entire career in the General Assembly and include House as well as Senate service.

Interestingly, only one of the most moderate Democrats hails from Baltimore City, Montgomery, or Prince George’s County. Prince George’s Sen. Anthony Muse, who backed Larry Hogan in the Governor’s race following a quixotic primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, is the seventh most conservative Democrat.

Baltimore County Sen. Jim Brochin is the most moderate Democrat, followed by Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, who also hails from Baltimore County. Sen. Bobby Zirkin, the eighth most moderate senator, is the final Baltimore County senator on the list. The other members of Baltimore County’s Senate delegation will be either African-American Democrats or Republicans. Sen. Jim DeGrange and Sen. John Astle, the fourth and fifth most conservative Democrats, represent Anne Arundel.

The final members of the list come from different counties. Sen. Jim Mathias, the third most moderate Democrat, represents the lower Eastern Shore. Sen. Mac Middleton is from increasingly Democratic Charles. Sen. Ron Young represents Frederick, a county that has become more Democratic than in the past in recent elections but went strongly for Larry Hogan.

Finally, Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, the most liberal member of this group of moderates is from Howard, a county that is now solidly Democratic in federal contests but that elected a moderate Republican, Alan Kittleman, as County Executive, and also voted for Larry Hogan.


Regional Political Chasm Expands


America in Miniature has very distinct political regions. I’ve divided Maryland into seven here. Republicans eliminated many of the remaining Democratic officeholders in 2014 in three rock-ribbed Republican regions–Western Maryland, Eastern Shore, and Outer Baltimore Bastions. Democrats retain iron grips on the Washington Suburbs and Baltimore City. These areas have very completely different interests and perspective on key issues facing the State.

Among the two remaining regions, Southern Maryland is really divided into two areas moving strongly in opposite directions, which just reinforces the divisions between the other regions. However, the four counties in the Swingy Outer Suburbs constitute the more marginal political territory in Maryland elections. Often up for grabs, Republicans advanced in 2014 through impressive gains in this important region.

Western Maryland

District 1 and 2 are located entirely within Garrett, Allegany, and Washington counties, and both will send entirely Republican delegations to the General Assembly. Their county commissions are also all one-party affairs. Hogan won between 75% and 80% of the vote in these three counties.

Eastern Shore

The Eastern Shore contains nine counties: Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s Dorchester, Caroline, Talbot, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester. Districts 35A, 36, 37, and 38 are located on the shore (the rest of D35 includes northern Cecil and will be discussed with Harford.) Unsurprisingly, Hogan did well here, taking between 65% and 80% of the vote in the nine Eastern Shore counties.

(Corrections made to this paragraph.) The Shore’s General Assembly delegation is heavily Republican. Majority-black District 37A’s sole delegate is the only Democratic delegate as compared to nine Republicans. Thanks to the political talent of Sen. Jim Mathias, the Democrats also hold one of the Shore’s three Senate seats. Republicans also dominate country government with 34 commission or council seats to just 11 for the Democrats.

Republicans hold all seats on the commissions or councils of Cecil, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, and Talbot Counties. They also form majorities in Wicomico and Worcester Counties. Democrats hang on to majority status by a single seat in Dorchester, Kent, and Somerset Counties–three of the Shore’s smaller counties.

Baltimore City

All six senators and sixteen delegates from the City are Republicans Democrats (Districts 40, 41, 43, 45, and 46 in their entirety as well as District 44A). The Democrats sweep city elections with similar regularity. Hogan won 22% of the vote in the City–not too bad really for a statewide Republican candidate.

Washington Suburbs

Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties are the two other large Democratic bastions. Together they contribute 16 senators and 47 delegates to the Democratic majorities in the General Assembly (Districts 14-27, 39, 47 but 27C is completely outside of Prince George’s). Democrats also easily mop up the seats on both county councils. Hogan received 37% of the vote in Montgomery but only 15% in Prince George’s.

Southern Maryland

The three counties of southern Maryland have been trending in two different directions. While growth, particularly that related to the Navy, has tilted Calvert and St. Mary’s increasingly Republican, growing African-American suburbanization has pushed Charles in the other direction.

Democrats now control the senator and three delegates from Charles (District 28) and hold all county offices. On the other hand, Republicans hold the one senator and four delegates elected entirely from St. Mary’s and Calvert (District 29 and District 27C), as well as completely dominate county offices. Hogan won 69% in Calvert and 73% in St. Mary’s. Though Hogan lost Charles, he showed surprising strength at 47% in a county that has gone for the Democrats by steadily increasing margins.

Swingy Outer Suburbs

Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Frederick and Howard are  key pivots in state elections. All went for Hogan–52% in Howard, 59% in Baltimore County, 64% in Frederick, and 66% in Anne Arundel. All have mixed representation on their county councils with Howard heavily Democratic, Baltimore leaning Democratic, Anne Arundel leaning Republican, and Frederick heavily Republican. Republicans hold county executive seats in Anne Arundel and Howard while Democrats claim Baltimore County and Frederick.

Many of the more competitive elections for the General Assembly occur in these four counties, though there are also several solid legislative districts for each party. (Districts 3-4 in Frederick, Districts 6, 8, 10, 11, 42 and 44B in Baltimore, Districts 9, 12, 13 in Howard, District 30-33 in Anne Arundel.)

While Democrats lead 10-5 in Senate seats, they hold a smaller margin of 15-13 in House seats for these counties. Republicans picked up a several seats that Democrats had hoped to take in this region in 2014. Republicans have to continue to do well in these areas if they hope to make inroads in Maryland. All four counties have been moving towards the Democrats in presidential contests.

Outer Baltimore Bastions

Carroll and Harford Counties are Republican dream lands. Hogan was 82% in Carroll and 77% in Harford. Republicans control all county council seats in both places, as well as the executive in Harford.

Republicans now control all but one General Assembly seat, sending four senators and ten delegates to augment the GOP Caucuses. One Democratic delegate hangs on in District 34A. (District 5 is entirely within Carroll and 34 within Harford. District 7 straddles the Baltimore-Harford line but resembles Harford politically. District 35B is split between Cecil and Harford with 35A in Cecil.)


Popping Democratic Myths

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.