Anybody who knows me or knows of me knows that I have been a conservative Republican my entire adult life. Unfortunately, too many in my party seem to be more interested in relegating the GOP to the ash heap of history than establishing a path to win elections, especially here in Maryland.
I was by no means a supporter of Donald Trump during his two runs for the presidency. Trump and his so-called populist policies had more in common with the worst instincts of Democrats than in traditional Republican principles of small government, low taxes, free trade, and national security.
Sadly, that has not stopped far too many Republicans in Maryland from abandoning their professed conservative principles to follow Trump’s populist policies.
Trump and Trumpism have never been popular in Maryland. That manifested itself in a less than fantastic 2018 election where, despite Gov. Larry Hogan’s overwhelming reelection, voter dissatisfaction with Republicans generally and Trump specifically led to unexpected Republican losses across Maryland. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, too many Maryland Republican leaders continued to insist that Trump and his style of politics were the formula for electoral success.
Even in the wake of Trump’s overwhelming November 3rd electoral defeat, some Republican officials here in Maryland are too busy bending the knee to Trump to see the forest for the trees. This has been at just about every level of Republican electoral governance.
Bending knees to Trump
Congressman Andy Harris is getting most of the attention for his cowardly abstention on Trump’s second impeachment, his 2 a.m. fight on the floor of the House, or his gunplay. Del. Dan Cox of Frederick Co. continues to show no remorse for his support of the QAnon conspiracy theory and calling former Vice-President Mike Pence a traitor.
Republican Central Committee members and even some official County Central Committee communication organs have voiced their support for the attempted coup d’etat at the Capitol on January 6th.
At what point will the cultish madness end?
The Maryland Republican Party has been doing yeoman’s work in trying to keep this ship afloat. State Party Chairman Dirk Haire and Executive Director Corine Frank have done everything they can to keep the Republican wing and the Trump wing of the GOP together. But they cannot do it alone.
At some point, it is incumbent upon local Republican Central Committee members and activists to decide what kind of party we want to have.
What kind of GOP do we want?
Do local Central Committees want to continue down their current path? Do Central Committees want to continue to make Donald Trump the focus of the party, even as we approach a gubernatorial election? Do members, publicly and privately, continue to want to demonize a fellow Republican in Gov. Larry Hogan, the most successful governor of Maryland in over a generation?
Do activists want to continue to push bonkers conspiracy theories that turn off even sympathetic, conservative-leaning voters? Do leaders want to push failed electoral strategies like boat parades and car parades at the expense of proven winning methods?
Or do Central Committee members want to turn the corner and embrace the future? Will activists embrace conservative principles again? Will they focus on the issues that matter to voters instead of promoting a cult of personality around a failed president? Will Central Committees re-embrace the proven get-out-the-vote principles that have been so effective in so many elections across the state? And will members and activists get behind the Republican candidate for governor in order to stop Democrats from taking the state backward?
There are two choices that Central Committees and activists can make. One is the proven and successful path tread by the only two-term Republican governor of Maryland in the last sixty years, one that leads Republicans closer to making Maryland a truly competitive two-party state. The other is to follow a cult into an electoral abyss that will truly bury Maryland Republicans for a generation.
I know which path I choose. And I refuse to concede my party to unprincipled activists and leaders who want to follow Donald Trump into political irrelevance.