Democrats And Their Ineffective Strategy To Defeat Larry Hogan

On a 100 degree day last July, everyone who lined up outside the Silver Spring Civic Center to see Bernie Sanders received a Ben Jealous for Governor sign to hold. I get it – Bernie was there to endorse Jealous. I didn’t really want the sign, though – I was (and still am?) rather undecided as to who to support in the gubernatorial primary. I was mainly there to hear Bernie speak – because why not. I will give Ben Jealous the credit, though, for a clever call to “stand at Trump’s doorstep to get rid of Trump’s doormat!” Clever as it may be, it characterizes a string of Democratic attempts to tie the incumbent Republican governor to the orange monstrosity in the White House.

Democrats, it’s time to stop. This strategy isn’t working. It’s time to come up with something better.

Even the Washington Post repeatedly affirms Hogan’s popularity and predicts his victory as the Democrats so far are relying on the “R” next to his name to do him in, instead of criticism based on substance.

Larry Hogan’s popularity is three things: misleading, understandable, and misguided.

It is misleading, because his mid-60s approval rating encompasses a great deal of tepid, “ok, sure, whatever, Hogan’s fine, I guess”- type voters, who could be swayed by someone more interesting than Anthony Brown.

It is understandable, because the average Joe in Baltimore County, who might not have the time, patience, or desire to fact check or read between the lines, may very well believe that he was hosed by the rain tax.

It is misguided, because people who do see though Hogan’s adept presentation as an inoffensive centrist really dislike Hogan.

I know I can’t go by this, but those I know who have interacted with Hogan in Annapolis say he is as conservative as they come. Publicly announcing that you did not vote for Trumo doesn’t cancel out your right wing leanings.

The problem is, we will find out exactly how right wing Hogan is if he’s reelected, and if the Democrats don’t maintain their veto-proof majority, which may happen if the Maryland Democratic Party wastes all its time trying to tie Hogan to Trump. Not only do they need to win on issues, they need to do a better job of affirming that Hogan hasn’t been able to do much damage because the Democrats control the legislature.

Do we need to let voters think that a ban on fracking was Hogan’s idea? Or that it was Hogan’s idea, without any Democratic pressure, to join other states in alliance to support the Paris Climate Accord? 

I’m not saying that we should swallow the idea of Hogan walking into his reelection. But there are far worse things than not being a one-party state for a few terms; namely,  losing on all fronts because of walking into the same trap.

Regardless of what people who personally know Hogan say about how he may be more ideologically Trumpian than how he has governed, the Hogan=Republican=Trump assumption is not a winning strategy.

Democrats have to win on merit. On coming out ahead in the free exchange of ideas.

This means taking back control of the narrative. This is of course, easier said than done, especially on issues that generate knee-jerk reactions, such as taxes. Quite often, unaffiliated voters, at the end of the day, would like to keep as much of what they earn as possible. Taxes aren’t he be-all, end-all, though, and some government services and regulations in the big picture result in more disposable income for working people as monthly expenditures (which, unfortunately, too many of us drastically overestimate how much we have control over) become more merciful. Case in point, opting out of health insurance and going to the emergency room. Too often, Republicans get the last word. Well, two (oversimplified words): Tax cuts.

This is the kind of narrative over which Democrats need to regain control.

We need to campaign on issues, not on how much we can tie Hogan to Trump (and waiting to pounce on the next Trumpian thing that Hogan might let slip one day…) If not, the Democrats may lose the governor’s race and seats in the state legislature, and we might just get what we wished for.

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