10.18.12 Biennial Election Guide for Takoma Park & Montgomery County, MD

President of the United States

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the entire Republican Party are evil. There. We’re done with that topic and nothing more needs to be said about it.

Some feel betrayed by Barack Obama. They wonder where the progressive they thought they had met in 2008 has gone, along with that uplifting vision of hope and change. He never was the great dreamy progressive many believed him to be. Apart from his opposition to the Iraq War, Obama is a center-right guy. Like most of the Democratic Party establishment, he is fully committed to the welfare of Wall Street. Further, he is the worst civil liberties president in American history. Sure, he banned torture. But otherwise, his policies on military tribunals and imprisonment without trial are expanded from those he inherited from W, as is his commitment to spying on Americans at work, at home, on the road, on the internet, everywhere.

He is also an utter, unmitigated failure as a political leader. It took him nearly three years in office to figure out what the rest of us knew by March 2009: that the GOP was determined to ruin the country, if that’s what it took to drive him from office and impose their plutocratic, theocratic state. He ceded to Congress complete control over his key initiative: health care. In the process, single payer was destroyed and any reform at all came perilously close to the brink. His public dithering and inability to articulate a vision led to the horrendous 2010 GOP takeover – not just of Congress, but of statehouses coast-to-coast.

Then there was that debate two weeks ago: the epitome of fecklessness. With his opponent on the ropes, Barack Obama’s lack of engagement or willingness to fight for anything allowed the GOP to spring back to life. Will Romney actually win? We don’t yet know. But we do know that a competent leader would never have given him a chance. And Obama is just not a competent leader. (Ok, the second debate was better. But still!)

Jill Stein is the Green Party’s candidate for president. I know almost nothing about her personally; though, I do know that the Green Party well represents my values. That’s beside the point, because she is not going to win significant numbers of votes and a vote for her is only about protesting. If I were in Ohio, say, or Virginia, I would bite my cheeks and vote for Obama. Because Obama is a sure landslide winner in Maryland, though, I have the luxury of casting a protest vote against his pro-corporate, anti-civil liberties policies and complete spinelessness. And that is what I shall do by voting for Jill Stein.

Having said this, I call on you lefties to be firm and vocal with your friends and family in swing states: there is a HUGE difference between a bad Democrat and any Republican, when it comes to the courts. There is no place for Naderism, when the president controls lifetime appointments, not only to the Supreme Court, but all federal courts. The extreme right wing has taken over the judiciary in much of the country. Only a Democratic president will be able to slow the bleeding. No matter how bad Obama is, anyone who is not a right-wing nut job and lives in a swing state must vote for him!

US Senator

Ben Cardin has been surprisingly progressive. One great example is his vote against a defense authorization bill that contained provisions increasing the federal assault on civil liberties. Barbara Mikulski (when will she retire?!) voted for it. I can’t think of any good reason to oppose Cardin’s reelection.

US Congress District 8

Chris Van Hollen is the only progressive in the congressional Democratic leadership. We should be proud to be represented by Van Hollen and try to get him over 80%, if we can!

Judges and Board of Education

I have no opinion of my own in these races. State Senator Jamie Raskin (D-20) tells me that all the judges are fine and had nice things to say about Rebecca Smondrowski for Board of Education, District 2. (The fact that Smondrowski’s opponent, Fred Evans, has tied himself to Doug Duncan – MoCo’s own Prince of Darkness –hardly endears him to me.)

State Question 1 – PG County Judges

Yes. I have no well formed opinion on this, but it seems reasonable that any judge in the state should be eligible to practice law in the state and be a member in good standing of the Bar. If there are good reasons to oppose this, please send them my way.

State Question 2 – Baltimore Country Judges


State Question 3 – Suspension and Removal of Elected Officials

Yes. This provision would remove elected officials from their jobs as soon as they are convicted of a serious crime. This would prevent a recurrence of the Leslie Johnson fiasco, where she was convicted of corruption, but stayed in office as a PG County Councilmember – able to vote and collect her salary – while she deliberately stalled having her conviction finalized.

State Question 4 – “The Dream Act”

Yes. This provision allows undocumented immigrants who live in Maryland to attend college at in-state tuition rates. This is a no brainer: why wouldn’t the state want all of its residents to become educated, productive members of society? The only justification for opposing this measure is sheer bigotry.

State Question 5 – “The Gerrymander”

No? (It actually hardly matters – stick with me, dear reader, to find out why.)

Repeat after me: Just because Democrats came up with it, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing! The Maryland Democratic Party machine has shamed itself and our state by creating monstrosities of our (US) congressional district maps.* The most outrageous shape is District 3, connected in several spots by little more than highways as it meanders through every part of the state except the Eastern Shore. (Poor Eastern Shore!)

What are the Democrats up to? Just the same game as the GOP plays everywhere it has control. The Dems saw a chance to knock out one of the state’s two GOP members of Congress (Roscoe Bartlett, District 6) and just couldn’t help themselves. Oh yeah, they also saw a chance to make a principled stand in favor of nepotism, by creating that awful 3rd District as a permanently safe seat for John Sarbanes, son of the former senator.

So, am I calling for Democrats to disarm when, after all, everyone else is doing it? In short, yes. Sometimes, (small-d) democracy is more important than winning. If doing the right thing means that Bartlett gets to serve another term and Sarbanes has to fight harder for his seat, so be it.

What is the right policy? Nonpartisan redistricting commissions that produce districts based on both natural and human borders, as well as history. Sadly, as long as Maryland remains a one-party state, this just won’t see the light of day. Bosses don’t like power dilution.

Martin O’Malley’s and Ike Leggett’s cheerleading for the gerrymander will make it very hard for me to support their future campaigns. (O’Malley is rumored to be considering a run for US president in 2016. I would only support Leggett if he were the only alternative to Mean Mr. Duncan.)

County councilman Phil Andrews (D-1), a former director of Maryland Common Cause, is providing great leadership on this issue, speaking out forcefully in the media against the gerrymander. Andrews plans to run for county executive in 2014. I hope he’ll prove to be a compelling alternative to politics as usual.

Now, here’s the sad news (and the crux of the story). The very Democrats who brought us this nonsense are now secretly hoping we vote against it. Why? Because all that will happen is that they’ll get a brand-new chance to gerrymander, this time with brand-new 2012 voting data! (To clarify: if the redistricting proposal loses, the 2012 election results will still stand and the job of creating new maps will go back to the same people who drew these abominations. Then, the new abominations will be used in 2014, pending an inevitable court challenge.)

Bottom line: if you vote yes, you are endorsing gerrymandering; if you vote no, you are helping the gerrymanderers.

I’ll vote no out of principle and just seethe silently about the Democratic forces of evil who run our state. I suppose there is one very tiny hope in voting no: that enough constituents will pressure enough party machine-heads to create better maps next time. Then again, pigs might sprout wings and sing arias.

*These districts are for Maryland’s members in the US Congress. Districts for all Maryland state bodies and offices are not at issue.

State Question 6 – Marriage Rights for All

Yes. You don’t need me to convince you that bigotry is always wrong.

State Question 7 – Gambling Expansion

No. Gambling is regressive taxation: state-sponsored theft from the poor in order to excuse the rich from paying their fair share. Further, gambling doesn’t produce the financial payoffs its zealots always claim. Look at what happened after Maryland voters first approved gambling. Almost nothing. No windfall for education. No budget surpluses. It was all a bunch of lies.

Further (#2), don’t believe the propaganda about gambling proceeds being dedicated to some cause (like education) you support. The fact is that the Maryland General Assembly — if given the chance to use gambling money for education — will go ahead and fund education exactly where it was before and then use the money they take out of the education budget for something you are not quite so committed to. Finally, so many social ills are caused by gambling (increased crime and destitute families, to name two) that a significant portion of whatever money does not end up lining the gambling industry’s filthy pockets will end up paying to redress them.

County Question A – Hiring Preference for People with Disabilities

Yes. Seems like the right thing to do.

County Question B – Reducing Police Union Control over Operations

Yes. Here’s one where you have to be determined not to let ingrained ideology or union propaganda confuse you. This is not about cutting back on the unions’ ability to bargain over compensation, benefits, and major issues of work safety. Rather, it’s about eliminating the unions’ power to stop every single management initiative regarding daily operations. Say the police chief thinks it’s a good idea that every police car be equipped with a snow shovel. No, says the union — not until you give us “x” (whatever “x” might turn out to be). This isn’t about collective bargaining. It’s about preventing union-powered blackmail.

You lefties and lifelong labor activists need to get off your ideological high horses and deal with reality. Just as with Democrats, just because a union says they want something does not make it ipso facto good. I believe, in fact, that overreach by public employee unions feeds directly into the agenda of the hard-right corporate elite, because it turns public opinion against all labor. If we stand up to labor when they are wrong, we will be serving not only the broader interest, but also the long-term interest of the unions themselves.

downloadable PDF of this guide

©2012 Keith Berner

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2 Comments on “10.18.12 Biennial Election Guide for Takoma Park & Montgomery County, MD”

  1. Bill Brown Says:

    This is helpful, thanks! I agree on unions – support in principle, but not with a knee-jerk. I’d like to see guidance on the school board races with this in mind. The only recommendations are those “apple” seals-of-approval that come from the teacher’s union, which for reasons you state above, I’m not inclined to follow blindly.

    And, I for one will NOT vote for Cardin. A few years ago I asked him to vote against a bill that would have affected how I earn a living. It would have eroded individuals’ copyrights, making it easier for corporate appropriation of them. It’s a small issue that doesn’t affect a large voting bloc. His response was telling. He said he was voting FOR it (the Orphan Works Bill), and his reasons were a regurgitation of the corporate PR.

    So, either he’s in the pocket of Getty, Google, Disney, etc, or he can’t be bothered to pay attention to an issue that effects a small group of constituents.

    Whatever, he’s lost my vote forever.


    • Keith Berner Says:

      Thanks for your comments, Bill.

      For school board, I recommend following the advice of Progressive Neighbors. You can download their guide here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/110461708/Progressive-Neighbors-2012-Voter-Guide

      They recommend Phil Kauffman for At-Large, Rebecca Smondrowski for District 2, and Chris Barclay for District 4.

      Re Ben Cardin, it strikes me a as a bit selfish for you to condemn him forever due to his vote on one issue that impacted you; though, from your very brief reference to the matter, it seems that a broader principle might be at play here. In any case, you can safely protest against Cardin without putting a Republican in office, since Cardin will probably get upwards of 70% of the vote.



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