I’m a Maryland Republican. In most places in the middle part of the country that would make me all but a Democrat. With the reliable rift of blue stretching down from Baltimore County through the suburban counties south of DC, Maryland is effectively a one party state – but one that allows for an occasional quirk of electing Republican governors.
I’m not the biggest fan of Larry Hogan. There are issues he’s given up on that I would dearly like to see him fight for – though in a state where the Democratic controlled legislature can overwhelm any gubanatorial veto easily, those fights would be barely more than a gesture. He’s actually done better than I expected and that earned him my vote for a second chance at the big chair.
Even knowing the long odds of any Republican running for state wide office here in the Old Line State, I schlepped to my polling place after work. In reliably ruby red Cecil County, there were plenty of races where my vote will make a difference. Unlike the state offices, for local races here at the upper edge of the Eastern Shore, the Republican primary basically makes the general election a foregone conclusion.
I’ve done my bit to make sure the state has a fighting chance of not getting lost into single-party hellscape of forever higher taxes, runaway spending, and increasingly invasive government “services.” Maybe we can’t hold the line indefinitely, but I’ve got another 16 or so years before I can bail out for somewhere where the state government doesn’t seem determined to be all things to all people so I’ve got to do what I can when I can.
I’ve wandered through Facebook pages, websites, news articles, and even random campaign literature praising the qualification of nearly all of the fourteen or so Republican candidates for US Senate in Maryland. It struck me, perhaps too late to be much of a time saver, that what I was doing was really the working definition of madness since Maryland hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since 1980. For all practical purposes I could cast a write-in vote for myself and have just as much influence on the eventual winner of the electoral process in November. In this state, a Democratic win is just a foregone conclusion.
Of course this reliable bright blue state of ours currently has a surprisingly popular Republican governor who has somehow maintained his bipartisan appeal according to most polls. A Republican senator from the great State of Maryland would be a coup – an improbable, pipe dream of a coup. Still stranger things have happened on election days so I’ll do my best to go out tomorrow and pick us a winner.
I cast my first vote for president in the 1996 contest between Bob Dole and Bill Clinton. I’ve cast votes in every presidential primary and general election since then. Next week, for the first time in twenty years, I’ll actually vote for a candidate running in a race the outcome of which isn’t a foregone conclusion. By the time the primaries roll around in Maryland the nominee is usually running away with it. In the general election, mother Maryland is so reliably blue that all I’m doing at the polls is decreasing the Democratic nominee’s margin of victory by one vote.
Even knowing that the results in my home state are almost never contested, I’ve felt that it’s important to take those few minutes and participate in the process. It’s that much more important this year, because the results really are still in question and so many of the pieces on the board are still in play.
I won’t bore you with the numbing detail of local races, but I’ll say with firm conviction that I still support Governor John Kasich as the best Republican in the race and the candidate from either side of the aisle best suited be the next President of the United States. Next Tuesday he’ll have my vote.
I was about to write a post about how the Democratic Party’s use of super delegates seems to have a tendency to subvert the democratic process, but putting the real power to determine winners and losers into the hands of faithful party hacks. That’s the post I was going to write tonight. It’s such a nonsensical proposition that the story almost writes itself. It was supposed to be the low hanging fruit.
It was the low hanging fruit until the uproar caused when the general public found out that Colorado (along with several other jurisdictions) allocate delegates to the Republican National Convention by holding a state party convention rather than by having a caucus or voting in a primary election. There’s nothing technically wrong with that approach. It’s perfectly legal, but the optics of banner headlines screaming “no vote for Colorado GOP” just sucks up all the oxygen that would have been available for making fun of the Democrats “democratic” process.
The DNC responded to its misbegotten presidential candidates in the late 1960s and early 1970s (I’m looking at you Humphrey and McGovern) by creating super delegates to protect the vested interests of the party. Republicans have clearly devised their own methodology for ensuring their candidates pass whatever party purity test they want to concoct. Neither the super delegate nor the “no vote” option look appealing in the harsh light of extended scrutiny.
If it were up to me, primaries would be conducted across the country on the same day approximately six months before the general election… and the first candidate to begin their campaign more than 1 year from the date of the general would be summarily drawn and quartered, their head surmounted on pike at the foot of Capitol Hill, and the four quarters of his or her body sent off to the four corners of the country as a warning to others. Alas, such a mandate would undoubtedly be written off as a federal overreach into territory best left for the states and individual parties to deal with. Even if effectively and efficiently determining the will of the state party members isn’t really what we’re trying to accomplish, it feels like there must surely be a better way than the way we’re all falling over it this election year.
Call it Super Tuesday, or the more recently fashionable SEC Primary. Either way, primary election season is rolling on through the heart of the Old South and picking up a few states in the middle and western parts of the country. In fact as I write this, the polls in the east are getting ready to close.
As indifferent as I try to be about the proceedings I suppose it’s inevitable that my inner political science major comes out on nights like this. Wall to wall coverage, exit polls, dozens of analysts providing spin… I suppose to the broader majority of the public it sounds a little bit like hell. Ask me yesterday – or maybe even again tomorrow – and I’ll probably agree with you.
Tonight though… tonight I’m going to enjoy the madness of elections in the electronic age. I don’t know if I could ever respect myself if there really was a tidal shift in the electorate and I wasn’t paying attention when it happened.
From my vantage point I’ve always thought the conservative coalition that makes up the Republican Party in America consisted of three mostly aligned legs – the religio-social, the economic, and the defense oriented elements of the Grand Old Party. For the last fifty-odd years their interests have more or less aligned and policy differences have been manageable. What I’m looking at now in the wake of a caucus and two primaries, though, seems to show a coalition that’s fragmenting further each day. I suspect the primary results we’re seeing are the first deep clefts in a political party that’s in the process of shredding itself.
There’s no constitutional ordination that requires there be but two political parties in America, though for most of our history there has been a two party system. It’s a system that has mostly given a helpful shorthand for people deciding between differing opinions on large blocks of issues. In Great Britain there are currently 13 parties represented in the House of Commons. In other parliamentary democracies that number can be much higher. If you think politics in a two-party system are challenging, you wouldn’t believe the circus that leading a real coalition government can bring along with it.
I’m not saying the two party American system is an artifact of an earlier age, just that other options exist and are practiced. I am saying, however, that there’s a very real chance that in our lifetimes we might expect to see the Republican Party fractured into a handful or more of its constituent parts. It’s not as if the evangelicals, budget hawks, libertarians, tea partiers, and defense hawks even have all that much in common any more. Most of us on this side of the aisle stand in one or more of those camps, but damned few of us stand in all of them. It’s harder still when each group cries that they are the only “true” conservative voice.
For better or worse, America is changing. We can seek to manage that change in appropriate and productive ways or we can collectively decide to pretend it’s not happening at all. Conservatives led this country through the fat years of prosperity in the 1950s, the opening of relations with China, and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union. We could be that party again, but it’s going to mean giving up the bullshit of having some kind of purity test. It means being a little less fanatical and a little more tolerant of new ideas and different solutions. It means we have to talk not just to ourselves, but also to the Democrats, the moderates, the unaligned, and to anyone who’s willing to listen to our best-reasoned alternatives rather than to our inflamed rhetoric.
By way of alternative we can stay the course and let the party descend into factional squabbling and ensure that a conservative doesn’t sit in the Oval Office again for twenty years. The choices are ours – and so are the consequences.
While I was thinking about tomorrow’s Republican debate it occurred to me that the great state of Maryland is not holding its primary election until April 26th, over three months from today. Only 10 states and territories hold their Republican primary or caucus later in the spring.
By the time the polls open in Maryland, in all likelihood there will be a presumptive nominee – if not a nominee-in-fact. Failing that, the race will have winnowed out many of the current contenders until only a handful remain – the ones who are still able to raise funds and pay campaign staff so late in the game. For those of us at the tail end of the primary process that means there’s damned little reason to pay more than passing attention to what happens from the podia. By that time it seems likely my favored candidate will be filed as an also-ran and gone home to tend his crops before I get the chance to vote for him.
Partially it saddens me that there isn’t a “national” primary date in order to give equal weight to each vote cast. Of course that smacks of federal overreach into an area of government reserved for the states to adjudicate as they see fit and thus my libertarian streak won’t allow me to advocate for such a move. While it means my primary vote in Maryland is nearly hollow in terms of selecting my party’s candidate, it does mean that at least I can blow off the next few weeks and just check in for the box score every Tuesday night after Iowa kicks things off.
By that painfully twisted logic I can therefore absolve myself for not enduring two more rounds of debate. It almost feels like a fair trade.