The Pittsburgh Attack, George Washington, and This President

The tragic murder of at least 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the latest act of white supremacist terrorism should be an easy lift for any leader. You express sympathy for the victims, condemn anti-Semitism and despicable attacks of this sort at any place of worship, and vow to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Apparently, this was too much for President Trump in his initial response, who instead called for armed guards and lamented the slow pace of death penalty executions. Trump simply cannot bring himself to be a unifying force even briefly no matter the occasion. Even his later response avoided using the word “terrorism,” which is a totem for the right and Trump when such acts involve Muslims.

David Frum’s critique of President Trump’s response to today’s murders makes a devastating comparison:

There’s no politician to blame for the ideas in the synagogue murderer’s head. There are plenty to blame for the weapons in his hands. And at the top of that list is Trump, whose response to the killing was to blame the synagogue for not having armed guards of its own. In his famous letter to the Jewish congregations of Newport, Rhode Island, the nation’s first president pledged to them a country that would fulfill the biblical prophecy: “Every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Trump is an unworthy successor to George Washington who feeds off fear, normalizes it, and exploits it. He’s done it again today. This crime is not his fault at all. And yet he nevertheless found a way to use this crime to add to his own accumulating shame.

I’d go further than Frum and say that, even if Trump largely avoids direct anti-Semitism in favor of attacks on Blacks and Latinos, the regular stirring of white supremacy and the bile that goes with it along with his steady praise for violence has played a role in stimulating people like the shooter and the bomber.

Frum himself points out, “There is plenty of coded anti-Semitism in the United States: Every Jew knows who you mean when you castigate ‘globalists.'” There are lots of legitimate reasons to debate trade. But we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think that fear of the foreigner animates much of the opposition to it.


So Who Voted on Day 1 of Early Voting?

Early voting has started in Maryland. The Montgomery County Board of Elections helpfully provided me with statistics on turnout on the first day as well as information on where you can vote early and the lines are shortest.

Is Early Voting Turnout up?

Depends upon how you look at it. In Montgomery County, 14,519 eager voters hit early voting centers yesterday. That’s way up from the 4,321 who did the same in the 2014 midterm election but still decidedly lower than the 21,888 who cast ballots on the first day in the 2016 presidential.

Among the participants, 10,468 were Democrats, 2,168 were Republicans, and 1,883 were unaffiliated, Libertarian or Green party registrants. Based on the number of voters registered at the time of the primary (I can’t seem to locate quickly statistics on current on more recent registration levels), that’s 2.3% of all registered voters.

Good News for Democrats

At the time of the primary, 59.1% of registrants were Democrats, while 17.6% were Republicans and 23.3% were unaffiliated or registered Libertarian or Green.

Early voting statistics look quite different. At the end of the first day, 72.1% of early voters were Democrats – 13.0% higher than their share of the electorate. In contrast, only 14.9% were Republicans, 2.7% less than their share of the electorate.

Unaffiliated voters were the least likely to show up at early voting. Only 13.0% of first-day early voters were unaffiliated (or minor party) registrants. That’s fully 10.3% less than their share of all registered voters.

This last statistic isn’t terribly surprising. While many self-identified independents lean towards one party or the other, core independents who don’t lean towards either party form roughly 10% of the electorate. As a group, these voters know less about politics and participate at lower rates than partisans.

I know someone out there is thinking that this can’t be right because they’re an independent who always votes and some independents are just disenchanted with the two major parties. Remember that this information speaks to the the group of pure independents as a whole and may not apply to individuals.

The data is certainly encouraging for Democrats. However, Republicans tend to be more likely to vote at the polls than take advantage of early voting, so it’d be a mistake to assure that the electorate will necessarily be vastly changed this year.

Early Voting Information

Montgomery County has eleven early voting centers scattered around the county. The county has put together a cool website that now only shows their addresses but has links to maps and wait times.

The center nearest you may not be the quickest if it has a long wait. Traveling just a bit further to another center or going to one near your place of work may take less time if it has no wait. The Damascas Recreation Center, the Mid-County Recreation Center, Sandy Spring Fire Department, and Saint Catherine Laboure tend to have shorter waiting times.

Same Day Registration

On the first day of early voting, 59 people took advantage of the ability to register to vote at early voting. An additional 71 had their address changed or updated. Voters approved same day voter registration during early voting in a 2014 referendum.

Currently, same day voter registration is only allowed at early voting. But voters have a chance to expand this opportunity to election day at the polls by voting FOR Question 2, which would amend the Maryland Constitution to that end. I strongly encourage a vote in favor of this constitutional amendment.


Sorry Larry, Not Nearly Good Enough on Trump

Gov. Larry Hogan has received plaudits for his willingness to utter any criticisms of Donald Trump’s grotesque behavior, in contrast to the lapdog approach that prevails among Republicans. Nevertheless, Hogan has been quite reluctant to criticize Trump and extremely strategic in both when and how he does it.

Larry Hogan relies regularly on one excuse to explain his usual unwillingness to comment on Trump:

But during the Obama administration, during the Trump administration, I always said: “I didn’t run for Congress. I didn’t run for the Senate. I’m not in Washington. My focus — what they hired me to do — was run the state of Maryland.”

Funnily enough, Hogan’s self-proclaimed laser-like focus on Maryland and reticence to attack the president or engage in national policy debates fell away when he opposed allowing Syrian refugees to be settled in Maryland when Barack Obama was president. Who knew that states set refugee policy?

In contrast, Hogan had nothing to say on Trump’s Muslim ban because “it didn’t rise to the point where it was something I thought I should weigh in on” notwithstanding massive protests at BWI. Earlier this year, Hogan opposed the separation of kids from parents at the border when Trump’s reactionary immigration policy threatened to imperil his own political future.

It’s not unusual that Hogan’s pique at having to comment on issues outside of Maryland melts away quickly when it suits his purposes. Taking time to campaign for Chris Christie in New Jersey and Ed Gillespie in Virginia sure wasn’t part of running Maryland. Hogan went out and stumped for Gillespie even as the campaign emulated Corey Stewart and went full Trump in its demagoguery.

In contrast, Hogan had nothing to say about the Republican tax bill in Washington that ended the state and local tax deduction – a major hit on many of his Maryland constituents. Sure seems news of the weird when a Republican won’t attack Washington for raising taxes on his constituents.

Even a cursory analysis reveals that Hogan’s gentle criticisms of Trump’s policies are often made without mentioning the president. Sstatements on Trump himself are usually calibrated carefully to appeal to Trump supporters even as he maintains his political viability in this heavily Democratic state.

Hogan’s statements on the Mueller investigation are typical. Right after Hogan said that ending the Mueller investigation “would be a step too far,” the Governor reflexively echoed the president’s talking point that “the investigation is going too far afield of its original intent.”

It’s classic Hogan, sound centrist but then immediately pivot to shore up the Trump base. Incredibly, Hogan also stated that “I can’t sit in judgment. Whether I like what’s going on, the people overwhelmingly elected him as president.” Overwhelmingly.

Yes, Hogan has clearly spoken out more than most Republican politicians. But it has been only occasionally and grudgingly. He benefits enormously from grade inflation stemming from the supine posture of virtually all Republicans towards Donald Trump.

When you think about the endless Republican efforts to somehow turn the tragedy in Benghazi into a crime by Hillary Clinton, their total lack of interest in any of Trump’s public violation of our laws and democratic norms is even more amazing.

Gov. Larry Hogan has greater responsibility to speak up precisely because he is a Republican. It ought to be more reprehensible to him when a member of his own party acts abominably than a Democrat because it reflects on his party.

Moreover, as a member of the same party, statements by Hogan against Trump’s routine breakage of presidential and democratic norms would carry more weight in our overly polarized era. Hogan has handled Trump very deftly from a political perspective. But political acumen is not the same as moral leadership.


Why is Ben Jealous Losing? One Reason: Money

In a state that voted over 60% for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and in which 48% of voters strongly disapprove of Donald Trump, you’d think our Republican Governor would face a steep climb to reelection. In an interview with Mother Jones early this year, Jealous claimed “Donald Trump will take care of Larry Hogan.”

it’s just not working out that way. Even if the race tightens, most polls suggest that Larry Hogan is about to romp home with the largest victory margin for a Republican in eons. Jealous’s campaign manager complains feebly that the “polling is just wrong.”

What happened?

All campaigns understandably like to describe themselves as people powered but money remains the mother’s milk of politics. The campaign with the most money doesn’t always win but more money doesn’t hurt. Even if they can’t raise more than their opponent, campaigns need enough of the green to get their message out. The 2018 gubernatorial race has been no exception.

In the Democratic primary, Jealous used his national connections to handily out raise his opponents. Moreover, organizations pay attention to fundraising and Jealous leveraged his prowess to gain further support.

Jealous benefited additionally from outside expenditures in excess of $1 million that paid for a burst of television ads in Baltimore as the campaign drew to a close. Put in context, this amount exceeded the total raised by any single candidate according to the final pre-primary campaign finance report.

In an uncomfortable symmetry, Jealous now finds himself in the position of his primary opponents. During the primary, Jealous boasted that he could raise in excess of $10 million for the general election. But Jealous raised $1.1 million in the two months following the primary.

Hogan took in $2.5 million over the same short period, leaving him a total of $9.4 million to spend at in the final months of the campaign. Compounding Jealous’s problems, the Republican Governors Association has spent  $1.4 million to boost Hogan. Unlike in the primary, no outside groups seem willing to aid Jealous.

As a result, Hogan has been able to pound home the message the Jealous is a far-left candidate and tout himself as a moderate fellow who survived cancer and turned around Maryland. Jealous’s lack of funds has left Hogan’s attacks unanswered.

Leaving aside Hogan’s barrage, I could almost swear I live in Virginia. I now know that Barbara Trumpstock votes more with Big Orange than any other Virginia representative. Genial Tim Kaine has joined her as a regular presence on the box. I even saw a stray ad for Ben Cardin. Nothing from Ben Jealous.

If the Jealous campaign is spending money to communicate by other means in my neck of the woods, they’re hiding it well. Nothing from the welter of progressive organizations backing him either. Ads for Marc Elrich have started appearing in my web searches. Nothing from Jealous. No email. No snail mail. No phone calls. No texts. No door knocking. No carrier pigeons. Nothing.

Heck, I can’t recall having laid eyes on a single yard sign for Jealous.

Despite his vaunted fundraising and community organizing skills at the NAACP, the campaign has not raised enough to be competitive in a statewide race against a strong opponent. Voters are learning little about the candidate or his message from the campaign. Larry Hogan has been happy to fill in the blanks.


Sun Endorses Larry Hogan

Though frequently critical of Gov. Larry Hogan and supporters of Jealous in the primary, the Baltimore Sun has endorsed Hogan for reelection:

Mr. Hogan’s stewardship of state finances has been sound. He has neither made large new spending commitments nor attempted big tax cuts but has instead maintained a steady approach to the budget. This year, when it became clear that unintended side effects of the federal tax cuts would increase state income tax collections, he again worked cooperatively with the legislature to offer protection for lower-income Marylanders while banking much of the windfall to lay the groundwork for a major increase in education spending related to the expected findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. His adoption of the Democrats’ proposal for a “lockbox” for casino revenue is another step along the same path.

That last point reflects something unusual about Mr. Hogan — his willingness to adopt (some would say, co-opt) ideas and policies first proffered by Democrats and claim credit for them. He has shown himself to be adept at jumping on politically popular bandwagons, whether that’s the fracking ban, the lockbox or free community college. It drives Annapolis Democrats nuts. They argue, not without some justification, that Mr. Hogan has no real agenda and is instead running on theirs. To which we would respond: How exactly is that going badly? We are accustomed in Maryland to governors who are the real drivers of policy, but what we have instead with Mr. Hogan is a governor who sometimes seeks to put the brakes on the legislature’s policy initiatives but otherwise focuses on the day-to-day business of running the state. Consequently, Mr. Hogan has offered little in the way of an agenda for his second term beyond offering more of the same.

The Sun joins the Washington Post and the Annapolis Capital in endorsing the Governor for reelection.


Very Belated Gubernatorial Debate Review

In 1984, citizens of Oceania use doublethink to erase events from history. That effort probably isn’t even required for the recent gubernatorial debate. If a debate occurs on MPT amid a cacophony of Trump tweets and receives only brief press coverage, did it occur?

The debate struck me as a draw at the time, and Jealous needed more than a draw even if the audience exceeded political junkies. After marinating longer on the outcome, however, I’ve come to think that Hogan did more than just get through the 55 minutes unscathed but ultimately won.

Both candidates were ridiculously over the top in discussing the State’s economy. According to Hogan, Maryland was experiencing an economic apocalypse until he came along and now it’s Morning in Maryland. In contrast, Jealous presented Maryland as impoverished and facing rack and ruin thanks to Hogan. Neither remotely resembles the state I know. Fact checking by the reporters would have been most welcome.

Hogan and Jealous both came across as smart and knowledgeable. However, Hogan had a penchant for rudely interrupting Jealous in a manner echoing Donald Trump’s debating style. Jealous was more patient but frequently went into high dudgeon and berated the governor instead of addressing the voters.

A key reason Jealous lost is that he failed to turn the debate to questions on which Hogan is on the wrong side of public opinion. The $15 minimum wage enjoys broad public support and it’s a cornerstone of Jealous’s positioning as a tribune for the forgotten. Never came up in the lengthy debates about the economy and living standards.

Another problem Jealous faced is that the tactics used to effect in the primary—getting outraged and outbidding his opponents—fell utterly flat. When Hogan brought up Jealous’s recent residency, Jealous went into high dudgeon about how laws banning interracial marriage prevented his parents from living in Maryland.

Hogan utterly destroyed Jealous in his reply, After first eloquently acknowledging the struggle faced by Jealous’s parents, Hogan then pointed out that facts nonetheless are facts. Jealous lived in California and then DC until recently and never voted in a gubernatorial primary until he voted for himself. Hogan didn’t even have to bring up his own interracial marriage.

Jealous repeatedly tried the tactic of saying that he would have acted faster and done more on any given issue as he lambasted Hogan’s response as inadequate. Jealous, for example, repeatedly derided Hogan for taking so long to declare an opioid emergency. Yet Hogan’s response that he had charged the Lieutenant Governor with coming up with a good approach that had now been adopted and made Maryland a role model sounded perfectly reasonable. Jealous’s combination of outrage and outbidding fell flat.

Jealous faced the same problem on issue after issue, as Hogan could point to sensible bills passed by the General Assembly already accomplishing these goals. Community college? Already done and trying to outbid and do more sounds expensive and requiring more taxation. Teacher pay? Hogan loves to point out we’re spending more than ever on education (notwithstanding the cuts he made) and Jealous’s proposed 29% increase in teacher pay sure leaves voters wondering who is going to pay for it when their own salaries are not rising anywhere near that fast. Wanting to release more prisoners seems oblivious to the General Assembly’s recent passage of law to accomplish that goal and feeds into Hogan’s (specious) claim that Jealous wants to unleash violent criminals on the street.

Unfortunately, Jealous also fell victim to the Democratic obsession over plans, at one point pointing out vehemently that he has a plan and Hogan didn’t. Except that voters can judge Hogan by his record, and voters care more about hearing about the general direction and clear ideas. In any case, the plans on Jealous’s website are often less specific than advertised.

The coup de grace occurred when Jealous trotted out yet again that the Baltimore Sun named him Marylander of the Year. Though there is no love lost between Hogan and the Sun, he positively enjoyed pointing out to Jealous that this was something they had in common, as he too was a past Marylander of the Year.

In short, Jealous failed to shift the debate to advantageous ground. His outbidding strategy just fed Hogan’s claim that Jealous is too extreme on policy and will raise your taxes while allowing Hogan to sound like a sensible centrist.