There are many excellent reasons for Maryland voters to back Ben Jealous, the progressive Democratic candidate for governor, against the GOP incumbent, Larry Hogan. The Washington Post, in today's endorsement of Larry Hogan, delivered some of the most convincing arguments for Jealous.
/By Woody Woodruff<>PM BlogSpace Report/ There are many excellent reasons for Maryland voters to back Ben Jealous, the progressive Democratic candidate for governor, against the GOP incumbent, Larry Hogan.
But one of the very best reasons didn’t drop until this morning (Oct. 11). As we have been predicting in this space, the self-important Washington (“Democracy Dies in Darkness”) Post has endorsed Hogan for re-election. In the process of justifying the decision, the WaPo pretty much checked off all the reasons NOT to vote for Hogan, as we’ll get to in a minute.
But first, they hastily assure us, “not that there’s anything wrong” with Ben Jealous – accenting their momentary discomfort at endorsing the quintessential white-boy Republican against a progressive African-American Democrat. Nothing wrong with Ben, that is, other than wanting to spend too much money, raising taxes on the affluent cohort that is the WaPo’s real constituency and potentially sending the wealthy denizens of Montgomery County fleeing across the river to Virginia (where, we have it on good authority, many of the WaPo’s top executives already live).
But about what the WaPo sees as Hogan’s pluses?
He has brokered “non-doctrinaire solutions” (read “business as usual, no change”) to make up for the fact that, as the WaPo concedes, he “continues to lack… a vision for Maryland’s future.”
In an era of Trump outrages, “his comportment in office has been civil and businesslike.” (He has genially looked the other way while the Republican Governors Campaign Committee flung the well-financed dung at Jealous to the tune of $3.2 million, predominantly from out of state sources).
Hogan “has steered a steady course on budgetary and fiscal matters, generally avoiding big fights and compromising with Democrats who control the legislature in Annapolis.” Compromising in most instances meant seeing his vetoes overridden by the Dems’ veto-proof majorities in the General Assembly. So, “steering a steady course” has involved doing – very little, other than riding the continuation of the Obama boom, as has Trump.
Meanwhile, not only has Maryland’s economy lagged compared to those of its neighbor states – the state under Hogan has been a foot-dragger in one of its most positive partnerships, as a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which many other Atlantic seaboard states (most recently, Virginia) use to gradually wean their power systems off fossil fuels via a form of cap-and-trade program. Opportunities for Maryland to be a leader among (and manufacturer of) renewable technology have faltered under Hogan, and with them the kinds of good-paying jobs that could have helped the state keep up.
But wait, Hogan has broken promises – in a good way, the WaPo feels. Campaigning to his non-urban base of Republicans and Reagan Democrats he played the mass transit skeptic and fan of more roads. But then he flipped and supported the Purple Line (we note he stripped important elements out of it in the name of cost reduction that will make it harder for the line to succeed). And he supported a long-term funding solution for Metro (bludgeoned into it by former US transportation secretary Ray LaHood). The WaPo argues that these stances “took guts.” Say what? In whose eyes? It took less “guts” to play to his racist base and cancel Baltimore’s much-needed Red Line.
The WaPo, which never saw a road it didn’t like (see the Inter-County Connector), sadly notes that Hogan’s “bold” proposal to add toll lanes to I-495 and I-270 has yet to “to fill in the blanks of how any of that will happen.” They do not note that Hogan’s base-pandering toll-road scheme pivots on a public-private partnership (PPP) that he claims will require no state revenue to build. It’s a pie in the sky proposal that is unlikely to provide good construction jobs because a ruling by the DC Circuit in 2016 (written by none other than Brett Kavanaugh) essentially said that prevailing wage rules didn’t apply in PPPs. Looks like minimum wage is the best workers could hope for in the brave new world of GOP finance. And the tolls would be ruinous to working families .
Another broken promise: fixing the state’s health care system, which amounts to fending off the worst of Trump’s destructive attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. The WaPo notes that Hogan and the Assembly Democrats worked out a marginal fix, but “He needs to follow up by making the program permanent and mending other holes Washington Republicans have ripped in the health-care law.” The WaPo would be happy with a few more patches; comprehensive health care like Medicare for All makes their editorial page nervous, as does the Jealous plan for Maryland.
One of Maryland’s persistent problems is lackluster overall school performance because of wide disparities among districts and their ability or willingness to seek improvement. The Commission chaired by Brit Kirwan (almost completely ignored by the WaPo) is close to presenting a two-part update of the Thornton plan to make school excellence and equity a goal again. Ben Jealous, we note, has embraced the likely costs and set revenue goals to meet that challenge, while Larry Hogan just wishes the whole thing would go away. The more Marylanders are dissatisfied with schools the easier it would be for Hogan to promote private school vouchers and cheeseball GOP corporate charter school schemes.
That’s the Hogan non-record – he’s done very little and broken some significant promises to his base. He is riding an economic boom despite the state’s slippage in the region, and the soothing poll question about whether or not the state is “heading in the right direction” is easy to answer in the affirmative for many Marylanders. That seems to be enough for the WaPo. It would be more interesting, we think, to ask as a follow-up “What would make these just-OK times better, in your opinion?”
In (perhaps unwitting) contrast to Hogan’s “lack [of] vision for Maryland’s future,” the WaPo nicely summarizes Jealous’s major program proposals, “universal health care and prekindergarten; debt-free college; free community college; a statewide $15 minimum wage; a 29 percent raise for teachers.” And the paper acknowledges that unlike many political candidates, he has revenue plans to match: “Mr. Jealous has identified funding sources for his plans: legalize and tax marijuana; impose a surtax on the wealthiest 1 percent; raise the cigarette tax; close corporate tax loopholes; reduce spending on prisons by overhauling the criminal-justice system.” Pretty good outline, which the WaPo then calls “politically unrealistic,” effectively fingering the corporate Democrats who are very much part of the problem.
The difficulties that Jealous’s campaign has had, including some internal ones, have been exacerbated by the lukewarm to indifferent support of the regular corporate Democrats whose long compact with business and development interests have made it easy for Hogan to appear a moderate who reaches across party lines. His administration’s work at the agency level to grease the path of wealth at the expense of working families has really echoed the longtime behavior of the Assembly’s mainstream Democrats. It is no wonder the WaPo finds it easy to embrace a GOP governor whose reach across party lines is so undemanding as to be illusory. The corporate Democrats who have run the show for four years of Hogan have deftly fended off Hogan’s worst GOP instincts without having to strike out for new goals for Maryland. That has, up until now, helped them get re-elected.
Ben Jealous’s campaign -- which the WaPo acknowledges is not only progressive but has a revenue plan to match – is startlingly different from the Hogan non-record, which has kept Maryland static in an economic current that has given neighboring states the opportunity to improve themselves. That the WaPo is happy with the equilibrium of decline says more about the paper’s constituency and corporate interests than about the interests of Maryland as a community.
There is no question that the Washington Post wields influence, especially in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs, so its endorsement of Hogan, like its endorsement of Nancy Floreen over Marc Elrich for Montgomery County Executive, MUST be seen for what it is – the support of a business-as-usual titan of the corporate elite that happens to use a lot of paper and ink in its business plan. The WaPo and its union-averse corporate allies have reason to be wary of Ben Jealous, Marc Elrich and the progressive wave nationwide. Working families in Maryland have reason to want the kind of change that Jealous and fellow progressives would bring.