December 20, 2004


To Stay Afloat, Maryland Democrats Better Swim in the Mainstream (Tim Maloney, December 12, 2004, Washington Post)

The national Democratic Party is ailing, but the diagnosis of its illness is in dispute. Explanations include the war, the presidential nominee, the tactics, even the evangelicals. It certainly wasn't the money: Democrats outspent Republicans in the five battleground states.

Democratic leaders now are trying to become more fluent with the "language of faith," as if all that was needed was a religious Berlitz course. Meanwhile, psychiatrists in Florida are treating despondent Democrats diagnosed with "post-election selection trauma." (No joke.) While some Democrats are in treatment, others are in denial. For example, Howard Dean is exploring a run for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. This thrills Maryland Republicans, who would love to hang the "Deaniac" label around the neck of moderate Democratic candidates. The Maryland GOP smells blood in the 2006 local elections.

John Kerry may have won 56 percent of Maryland's popular vote, but he also lost 20 of the state's 47 legislative districts and 18 of 23 counties, some resoundingly. That's why Maryland Democrats need to establish their own identity and not wait for the national party to find itself.

Republicans control most county seats in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore; they also are competitive in all but three other jurisdictions: Prince George's and Montgomery counties and Baltimore City, where Democratic strength is concentrated. Ironically, local Republican victories in the other 21 jurisdictions usually have come at the expense of moderate Democrats, driving the party farther to the left. [...]

Unfortunately, the Maryland Democratic Party still acts like the monopoly it used to be. But Democratic legislative leaders do not have the luxury of fighting among themselves. Nor can the party afford a bitter gubernatorial primary between Doug Duncan and Martin O'Malley.

The party faces cultural challenges too. Democrats are losing young voters, white men, Catholics and outer suburban and rural voters. This can't be cured by linguistic miracles or economic populism. Indeed, to many voters, "progressives" are liberals who are afraid to say so.

If, for instance, the Democrats insists on being the party of gay marriage or partial-birth abortion, they are slamming the door on many moderates. These voters sympathize with traditional Democratic goals, but they have become unenthusiastic Republicans because they no longer recognize the party of their parents and grandparents.

If Maryland Democrats want some moderate inspiration, they need only look south to Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a pro-business Democrat.

Maryland Democrats have a moderate pro-business governor now--why change your party when you can change parties?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 20, 2004 9:33 AM

As has been previously noted, one cannot change reality by merely misappropriating words--that's just too gay.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 20, 2004 1:37 PM

The Maryland Democratic Party is dependent upon inner city Blacks and Federal loafers(ahem, civil service workers) for votes. It cannot become a business-friendly party.

Mark Warner is a tax-hiking self-dealing sleazeball, who needs him? At least Bill Clinton gave us 8 years of antics.

Posted by: Bart at December 20, 2004 2:12 PM

The Maryland Democratic Party was in fact a business-friendly party under both Governors Mandel and particularly Schaefer, and ironically enough, also under Governor Glendening. In that case, though, it was one-party rule which saved the Democrats from themselves. The leadership of the General Assembly (generally) kept themselves from their worst excesses and were much of the time very aware of the needs of the business community.

Under Gov. Ehrlich, however, the leadership has not felt the need to restrain themselves, especially in the House, and they have gone off the tracks. Under a Governor Duncan, however, they'd likely be able to right the ship. Not so sure about a Governor O'Malley, though that seems more and more like a pipe dream for some, though two years is a long time...

Posted by: jsmith at December 20, 2004 10:55 PM


Maryland is still a high-tax, high-regulation, high corruption state by national standards, while admittedly being minor league compared to NJ on all three.

Posted by: Bart at December 21, 2004 6:28 AM

High tax? Nah--middle-of-the-road at worst. And Ernst & Young says Maryland has the 50th--yes, 50th--highest tax burden on businesses.

High regulation. Well, probably so, especially when compared across the Potomac. And I don't think Ehrlich is helping here, what with the flush tax and all, not to mention no move to make Maryland a right-to-work state.

High corruption? Oh, indeed. And don't look for that to change.

Posted by: jsmith at December 21, 2004 9:51 PM

Doesn't Maryland have high personal income taxes (5%) along with a state sales tax (5%)? Neighboring Delaware has no state sales tax.

Also, property taxes are significant.

Posted by: Bart at December 22, 2004 7:08 AM