Some Maryland Republicans, for generations really a minority political force, understandably came to see to their Party as a tribe or a family clan, not primarily as a means of changing public policy. This as an example of how one-party states not only tend to corrupt the ascendant administration, but also tend to diminish the minority party as an active political force working for fresh goals.
Many Maryland Republicans, however, do indeed feel strongly about national issues. But whatever their struggles or their sympathies on national issues, too often their policy benchmarks must inexplicably remain national – never crossing the state line.
Wholly different rules seem to apply when Maryland Republicans pass through that virtual Checkpoint Charlie returning to the Old Line State.
Some Maryland Republicans see it as simply bad taste to call attention to the questionable votes or actions of incumbent Republican state or local lawmakers, or even the missteps of the former governor. They reflexively support Maryland Republican lawmakers whose votes or actions would never pass conservative muster for a Republican-Study-Committee-second in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Center-right voices, nonetheless, have tried to hold accountable Maryland Republican state and local lawmakers (to say nothing of the former governor) on essentially plain vanilla conservative rules. Nothing exotic:
- opposing new state and local taxes;
- opposing state and local spending in excess of inflation and population;
- minimizing Republican pork, and all state spending that has the scent of pork;
- privatizing state and local government activities where possible;
- diminishing, and continually reviewing state and local regulation;
- supporting the Second Amendment in Maryland;
- protecting private property from eminent-domain abuse;
- blocking Green statism;
- thoughtfully opposing menacing “hate crimes” legislation;
- keeping our taxpayer-supported schools from tearing down the American heritage.
For many Republican state lawmakers who served when Bob Ehrlich was governor, there was one set of tax-and-spend rules for Republican governors and another for Democrat governors. That may serve Party zealots well. But it won’t do for principled conservatives. And the practice left the Maryland Republican Party without a policy core for all seasons.
The Annapolis Republicans
Many incumbent General Assembly Republicans and, of course, the Ehrlich government-in-exile, are like the Beltway GOP on the national level.
Call them the Annapolis Republican wing — not to be confused with Anne Arundel County’s conservative delegates to the General Assembly.
The Annapolis Republicans have a strong interest in the system as it is. They just promise to run it better than the Other Team. But they hardly welcome grass-roots scrutiny and recommendations, or primary challenges from capable conservative outsiders. For them, Party resources are for current Republican incumbents.
The Party as a Place of Refuge
Whenever we conservatives try to change the Maryland Republican system — or scrutinize Republican state legislators’ voting records and public statements — we must not appear to the rank and file to be attacking their Republican family. Of course, many party members might prefer Republican “leaders” more in line with their own values. But not at the price of alienating long-time “friends” or engaging in “divisive” discussion about how the Party should be governed and what it should stand for.
The Maryland Republican Party also provides a place of shelter for the like-minded — particularly in these times. But not every Maryland Republican is, or wants to be, part of a movement — with all the tumult and political and personal risk such an effort entails — to push back against the very dangerous Obama Revolution.
The texture of the state Republican Party today is perhaps an understandable product of Maryland history. But we conservatives have to recognize that fact, yet not lose our way as we move ahead.
Maryland Conservatives Need a Plan
Exceptional Maryland GOP staff like John Flynn were constantly pummeled by the Annapolis Republicans and their media allies, each of whom wish to push the Maryland GOP irreversibly toward big government for their own reasons.
The Annapolis Republicans have kept up a drumbeat of criticism against Party chairman Jim Pelura almost since he took office. The current uproar is part of these planned, continuing salami tactics of attacking his chieftaincy, slice by slice.
How many rank-and-file Maryland GOP members will soon tire of this “Pelura controversy” — however contrived and orchestrated — and settle for whatever the Annapolis Republican wing wants just for the sake of “peace in the family” and “unity”? Time will shortly tell.
Conservatives in the Maryland Republican Party might reflect on all this as they learn about the tone of the Party executive committee’s deliberations next Saturday.
Most important, conservatives should now be developing their own Maryland agenda — whatever the outcome of the factional fighting within the Republican Party: a thoughtful agenda looking ahead past the next election, one whose principles work for all seasons, but not one largely invested in a particular figure.
We cannot say it enough.These are very dangerous times without short-term fixes. We must keep our eyes on the main concerns — our liberty, our national security, our prosperity. As folks used to ask during the Second World War, “Don’t you know there is a war on?”
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