For the past few months, we have been told by Governor Hogan’s endorsed candidate for governor, Kelly Schulz, that the past 8 years have been overall positive. They haven’t. The same holds true with Democrats who have solidly run down Baltimore City for the past 65 years. They have overpromised, underdelivered, and then blamed their failures on Republicans who have not held elected office in the city since 1967.
Economic and personal decline
For many of us, our experience in Maryland has been one of cultural and economic decline, sometimes felt in the most personal of ways. We have seen inflation and taxes increasingly choke out the possibility of fulfilling the American Dream. We have felt the pain of unemployment and underemployment and fear the possibility of yet another round of COVID-19 lockdowns. We have seen our children miss out on nearly two years of schooling and fall further behind when things are already getting tougher for the working person.
In 2008, then candidate Barrack Obama characterized us as those who cling to “guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.” We were labeled as ignorant, racist, sexist, and yes, deplorable. But at the root of all of this were real class inequalities and a strong disagreement with the excesses of progressive cultural shifts.
Instead of hearing more concern about stagnant wages and the lack of economic opportunities for many Maryland communities, we heard more about the need for genderless bathrooms, preferred pronouns, test-free policies, and critical race theory. If we push back on these polices, we are then subject to the moral bullying of the Left who shun us and cage us with words that often end with -ism or -phobe.
Dan Cox is not Donald Trump
So enter Dan Cox. The man is more mild-mannered than Donald Trump, being the son of a minister and a father of 10 kids. He is a first-term delegate and not much of a politician in the traditional sense. He doesn’t have a pedigree of official titles or a long rolodex of connections. He doesn’t have the bombastic nature or charisma of President Trump. In fact, he’s more Mike Pence than the infamous “Orange Man.” And yet, Cox won by nearly the same margin that Larry Hogan won in the 2014 primary and dominated 22 out of the 24 counties.
What changed? For months, Cox spoke directly to Marylanders who were injured by the policies of the Left and frustrated with boiler-plate politicians. They saw their schools become subject of arbitrary lockdowns and mandates and increasingly become incubators for progressive curricula (e.g., critical race theory, sexually-explicit materials masked as LGBT literature). They were seeing an attack on meritocracy and expected communities like African and Asian immigrants to see their recipes for American success become obsolete. They were seeing radical environmentalists dominate the agenda for growth and development in rural areas—destroying industries like chicken farming and watermen on the Eastern Shore and coal mining in Western Maryland.
What the elites on the Left and the Right forget is that there is a real undercurrent of change in the American electorate. Last year, suburban women who were turned off by Trump’s brusque rhetoric took a serious liking to Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin’s concern of critical race theory. Asian and Latino Democrats who may have tuned out Trump because of his tone on illegal immigration are now seeing see that their pocketbooks and their public safety are better protected by Republicans.
And lastly, there are African Americans like me. We are the folks who live in Baltimore City and in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. We are increasingly concerned that COVID-19 legitimized the suppression of our economic and educational advancement. Lockdowns and vaccine mandates (and subsequent firings) put many of us worse off than we were four years ago.
The remedy for these legitimate concerns? More verbal scrapple from politicians like Wes Moore who chide independents and moderate Democrats to focus more on their trite criticisms of MAGA and Trump than on propounding concrete solutions for economic hardships.
A recent New York Times and Sienna poll found that affluent voters care more about gun control and abortion while working-class voters focus squarely on the economy. These findings should come as no surprise in places like Maryland where wealthier residents don’t feel the day-to-day hardships hitting the working class.
The next few months will be a real test for Democrats to accept the gravity of their losses of progressive prosecutors in San Francisco and Baltimore City and their 2021 losses in Virginia. I am doubtful that they will. Their anger towards Trump’s MAGA movement is so blinding that they will largely focus on cultural and sensational issues (e.g., abortion, January 6). These issues may matter more to their donors in wealthy suburbs or to their progressive activists. But again, they will have ignored the grim economic realities facing working-class folks and the educational and public safety concerns of immigrant communities.
Dan Cox is among the very few candidates speaking about these hardships and mobilizing a ‘had enough’ coalition of Republican, Democrat, and unaffiliated voters. Maybe Democrats will wake up and follow his lead. Maybe not. But they should not be shocked when in November, they find that voters will have voted their interests and just elected Dan Cox for governor.