Posted tagged ‘Bob Ehrlich’

07.16.17 Not a single patriot

July 16, 2017

I belong to a Facebook group for the summer camp I went to 47 years ago. (Damn, I’m old!) On July 4, this year, someone posted a request for people to share their Independence Day memories from back then. What I recalled (proudly) was the campers raising the flag upside down and backwards to protest the Vietnam War – it was either 1970 or -71. And I remember the camp owner giving us a harsh lecture on patriotism. “Love it or leave it,” was the mantra of the day.

I remember being called a commie for walking down the street with long hair in my teens. Worse epithets were used against those who opposed the Reagan’s defense buildup in the ‘80s. And the militarists went ape shit, as usual, when people who were neither brainwashed nor morons stood up against the Iraq War. (That was when Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich [R – of course] spent taxpayer dollars to infiltrate community peace groups who were such a threat to. . . what exactly?)

It was the right – and increasingly the Republican Party – that declared, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” and accused us of being traitors.

Notwithstanding my belief that the US has more often than not been a hypocrite in touting democracy, I am a democratic patriot. Democracy is not merely about holding elections, but rather making them free and fair, inclusive, and backed by a robust civil society and a judiciary that acts for justice (imagine that!). This is the only system of government that fosters individual dignity and the rights of all to influence outcomes, at least in its ideals.

Come the year 2017, democracy has been under assault for a decade around the world. In the past two years, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey (among others) have more or less given up on it, adopting ever-more authoritarian practices.

The US Republican Party has never seemed to care much for democracy.* Prime example: voter suppression. To a certain extent, it is inherent in conservatism to oppose a full franchise, because the idea is to preserve the power of those who already have it. But the Trump regime has raised contempt for democracy to a whole new level. Not only does Trump praise authoritarians around the globe (including in the aforementioned countries), but his rhetoric and policies have put our own (albeit flawed) democracy in grave danger, not the least by ceding power to Russia, America’s most dangerous adversary.

At least since the infamous “pussy tape” last summer, predictions that the GOP would imminently abandon Trump have been a mainstay of every new crisis. It has never happened. With the revelations of the past week, it still has not happened.

To be fair, the conservative intelligentsia and pundit-class have turned on Trump en masse. Columnists from David Brooks to Charles Krauthammer have been pummeling Trump, as well as calling out their party for its utter lack of principle.

But, even given a clear and present danger to national security, GOP members of Congress cannot step away from their one true cause: enriching the wealthy. Oh yeah, there are the usual two or three GOP stewards who mumble a few words of gentle criticism, but they intend no action and their colleagues go on fiddling while Rome burns. (John McCain is a particularly heinous example, because he knows better: It’s not enough to sound smart by saying you know there will be “more shoes to drop,” Sen. McCain. Do something about it!)

It is clear now that Trump could indeed shoot someone on 5th Avenue (as he said last summer) without losing his base. It won’t matter if he is caught fucking a little boy in the Oval Office or is on video handing the nuclear codes to Moscow: racist voters won’t abandon him; neither will Fox News or Breitbart. As for GOP elected officials, the only hope of peeling some away will be indictments against Trump henchmen. Even then, only those who perceive an immediate threat to reelection will turn.

No outrage is too much for the GOP: the same people who have used patriotism as a bludgeon for decades. With push having come to shove, they don’t give a shit about their country or anything but themselves and their monied pals.

I can only hope that a sufficient number of Americans note and remember for years to come this GOP-led assault on our fundamental institutions and ideals. I’m not holding my breath.

*I encourage readers to re-read this piece: 11.07.16 The GOP’s existential threat to democracy.

©2017 Keith Berner


11.05.10 Ehrlich the Fluke

November 5, 2010

This is cross-posted with the Washington Post’s All Opinions Are Local.

Bob Ehrlich didn’t just lose on Tuesday in his bid to reclaim the Maryland governorship. Nope, in a year when the country turned hard right, he was resoundingly whupped, losing by 13 points. The margin of Ehrlich’s loss nearly matches the margin of Republican wins everywhere else. And this comes despite the former governor’s decent approval ratings.

The Ehrlich repudiation of 2010 sends a very clear message: Sorry, Bob. Maryland voters never really chose you or the Republican Party on the merits. The only reason you interrupted the string of Democratic governors after the ignominious Spiro Agnew (1967-69), is because of who you had the good fortune to run against in 2002. That was when Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the sitting lieutenant governor, ran one of the worst campaigns in human memory. It was the same year that Maryland told the Kennedy clan loud and clear that their name no longer carried any weight in the Free State, as Mark Shriver lost to Chris Van Hollen in the 8th Congressional District Democratic primary.

Bottom line: You were a fluke, Bob Ehrlich, and Maryland is back to normal — a center-right state controlled by a center-right Democratic Party. As bleak as Democratic prospects seem nationwide, so are they for the GOP in Maryland. There will be no more Republican governors here, until or unless another Kathleen Kennedy Townsend becomes the Demoocratic nominee.

©2010 Keith Berner

09.27.10 O’Malley: What’s a Progressive to Do?

September 27, 2010

In my voter guide for the recent primary election, I urged abstention in the Democratic race for governor, while grudgingly accepting the need to support Governor Martin O’Malley’s reelection bid in November. Until a few days ago, I felt extremely torn about what I would do.  Sure I knew I would hold my nose and vote for the incumbent against GOP former governor Robert Ehrlich, but could I actually bring myself to demonstrate publicly my support for this disappointing centrist?  Could I get out an campaign for him?

Over the past few days, I’ve had this conversation with some of my friends and political allies.  And, lo and behold, I surprised myself by taking a stronger pro-O’Malley stand than some of them. Everyone seems to agree that Ehrlich must be stopped, but they were going into contortions to avoid the “E” word (“endorse”).  The consensus seemed to me: we’ve got to do whatever it takes to put O’Malley over the top; we’ll “support” him, but not “endorse” him.

Of course, this is a semantic argument.  According to my dictionary, the two words’ meanings are nearly identical.  So, what difference does it make what you call it, as long as you’re out knocking on doors and making phone calls on the candidate’s behalf?

As for me, the ambivalence is gone for two reasons:

  1. A trip down memory lane to revisit Ehrlich’s record as governor 2002-2006, and
  2. The abysmal primary election turnout in Montgomery County.

The record. How intently do we need to peer into the past to recollect Ehrlich’s hostility to public education, progressive taxation, the environment, and public transportation? Do we need to pull out old newspapers to be reminded about the sorry budgetary state Ehrlich left Maryland in? The year 2006 isn’t that long ago — it shouldn’t take much to jog any progressive’s mind: the Ehrlich era is one we don’t want to return to.

The turnout. Maryland has a reputation as a solid blue state.  But that blue comes from only three places: MoCo, Prince George’s, and Baltimore City.  The rest of the state is pink to deep red.  If Montgomery County’s Democrats decide not to show up in November, Ehrlich wins, pure and simple.

The record reminds us clearly what the consequences of inaction are.  The turnout is both frightening and empowering.  The silver lining within that gloomy cloud is the huge room for improvement that awaits our collective grasp.  Turnout couldn’t possibly go any lower (could it?!), meaning that Montgomery County progressives (and Democrats, in general) are in a proverbial target-rich environment. We don’t need bloodhounds to locate potential voters who didn’t bother on September 14.  If activists focus on voter registration and turnout in our ever-so-blue county, the votes produced will go our way.

So, that’s what we must do. We don’t have to love the governor in our hearts to set about making sure his opponent keeps lobbying (as opposed to governing) for the next four years.  All we need is to believe in the franchise and the importance of fulfilling it.  Armed with that belief, each of us can make a significant difference between now and November 2 and we can do so right where we live.

©2010 Keith Berner