Cracks in the Democratic machine

by Marta Hummel Mossburg

APRIL 13, 2012 Bookmark and Share

What a pleasure to hear the real Martin O’Malley after the close of the legislative session late Monday night. The man who usually sounds as if he is lobotomized by his own platitudes was angry and spoke in an almost non-Orwellian manner for a change.

“Sadly, we did not protect the priorities of public education like we should have, like we could have. …We didn’t protect affordable college.” He ended the press session by curtly saying “There was 90 days to work all of this out.”

With his hand-picked choice to win the 6th Congressional primary, State Senator Rob Garagiola (D-Montgomery), obliterated by Democratic rival John Delaney, this has not been a good two weeks for the governor who wants to be president.

Marylanders should be happy that the income and other tax proposals he wanted failed to pass both chambers prior to the session’s end. But as Robert McCartney wrote in The Washington Post Wednesday, “A governor who aspires to be president ought to be able to persuade a state legislature to deliver a proper budget on time. That’s especially true when no critical issue is in dispute and the governor’s party enjoys sizable majorities in both chambers.”

McCartney argues that Gov. O’Malley spent too little time in Annapolis this session, distracted by his aspirations for higher office.

But it could also be a case of serious cracks emerging within the state’s heavily Democratic majority between fiscal conservatives and moderates and the more liberal social engineers to which Mr. O’Malley has hooked his wagon.

This is what Todd Eberly, assistant professor of political science at St. Mary’s College, argues in a blog post earlier this week:

Maryland’s Democratic party is in disarray. The Garagiola defeat simply shined a bit more light on the problem. Leadership in the Assembly are faced with restless members eager to advance, yet there is little the leadership can offer. The state faces significant challenges, but its governor has shifted his gaze to a national stage. His proposals are more about national primary politics than about Maryland politics. O’Malley is forcing the state Democratic party to defend issues that are well in-line with the national Democratic party but more left of center than the Maryland Democratic party. As party leadership is less able to hold members in line many conservative Democrats and moderate Democrats from rural and even suburban parts of the state are going to become more concerned with their electoral needs than with the party’s needs.

His post is well worth reading for those who believe in two-party government and fiscal responsibility. If Eberly is right, Maryland’s dominant party may be leading us back in the right direction in spite of themselves.

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