Collins: Buttering up Trump might work better than roasting him

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By Michael Collins

For MarylandReporter.com

Maryland’s elected Democrats at all levels seem to be unified in their outspoken denunciations of President Trump.  They may want to consider, however, that their actions will have consequences.

The Maryland congressional delegation, with the lone exception of Congressman Andy Harris, R-1st, has been calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to confront President Donald Trump on his so-called “Muslim ban,” and speak out about Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

In truth, it seems that they don’t really expect Hogan to have much influence on these issues, especially since he did not support Trump for President.  They really want just to tie him to Trump so they can attack him in 2018.

It is a pattern, however, that continued in Maryland’s Senate and House of Delegates, which recently authorized Attorney General Brian Frosh to sue President Trump without Gov. Hogan’s say-so.

Of course, some local governments in Maryland are pushing legislation to codify themselves as “sanctuary” counties or cities, thereby proscribing their police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.  They want to be welcoming of immigrants, legal or otherwise, and tell President Trump “who we are.” One bill in Annapolis would do a similar favor for the state.

Democrats at all levels of government are completely incensed by President Trump’s proposed budget, which will trim all federal agencies with the exception of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs.

Maryland depends on federal spending

Maryland has relied upon federal spending for a large portion of its economy. Federal spending in the state went from $58 billion in 2001 to $98 billion in 2009.  At the same time, federal contracting increased by $28 billion.  By 2013, public sector and federal contracting jobs accounted for more than 27% of jobs in Maryland.  In fact, Maryland is home to 300,000 federal workers, not counting contractors.

The affluence of the counties surrounding Washington, D.C., became a powerful symbol in political campaigns across the country, especially in the heartland.  While the Great Recession hurt the rest of the country, the federal binge spending insulated Maryland and the entire D.C. region from the worst of it.

Today, Maryland ranks third in the nation in federal spending, and brings in about 50% more per capita than the national average.

Even though Congress has the power of the purse, the executive has enormous discretion.  With Democrats in the minority in the U.S. senate and House of Representatives, and statehouses across the country, they are in a weak-negotiating position.

President Trump prides himself on being a dealmaker.  He is ideologically flexible and has said he will work with Democrats and Republicans alike to advance his agenda.  This is especially true after the defeat of the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Catching flies with honey

Democratic leaders on the federal, state, and local level are kicking President Trump in the shins on every front, from so-called relations with Russia to every tweet he makes.  At the same time they are trying really hard to get President Trump to fully fund the National Institutes of Health, Meals on Wheels, Chesapeake Bay cleanup funds, and even give them a new $2.5 billion FBI headquarters in Prince George’s County.

Partisan food fights may be fun, and Democrats are enjoying dishing paybacks to Republicans who tormented them in the Obama years.

But with more than a quarter of Maryland’s economy subject to the whims of the federal government, and seeing as Democrats don’t have any real leverage in Washington, maybe, just maybe, they might want to consider changing their tone a bit.  Vitriol has never been a winning negotiating strategy.  They may come to see the wisdom in the old saying that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Michael Collins can be reached at michael.collins.capital@gmail.com.