Democratic Moral Cowardice in Baltimore City: the Case of the Silence That Greeted Sheila Dixon’s Wrongdoing

–Richard E. Vatz

“The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality” — Dante Alighieri in The Inferno

Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by the popularity of people who are unusually personally attractive due to their intelligence, accomplishments, humor and/or kindnesses, but who are gutless when it comes to challenging the ethical outrages of their friends or supporters.

Such challenges, when made seriously, are known by the words “political courage;” their absence is known by the word “cowardice.”

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Examples of the cowardly avoidance of the responsibility to publicly deal with issues of right and wrong occur throughout life: the school principal who tolerates bullying of small children; the cop who winks at the brutal behavior of his or her colleague; and the politician who looks the other way when his or her party compatriots commit financial corruption or racial bigotry.

This list is certainly not all-inclusive, as examples are inexhaustible.

In Maryland and particularly in Baltimore – perhaps because their party is so dominant – the Democrats are the conspicuous moral cowards. Two issues demonstrate this beyond question: the first, about which this writer has previously published, is the just appalling Democratic silence when Michael Steele was depicted as “Simple Sambo” in a Democratic blog by the late Steve Gilliard or when state Sen. Lisa A. Gladden supported using vicious racist slurs against Mr. Steele since “party trumps race,” or, more offensively, then-Democratic Del. Salima S. Marriott’s horrifying statement that comparisons of Mr. Steele to a slave were deserved because he’s a conservative. If Republicans did any of these things to a prominent Democratic politician, not to mention the lack of reaction to the 2002 racist attacks by The Baltimore Sun or the use of Oreo cookies to imply Steele was “white on the inside” at the 2002 Maryland gubernatorial debate, Democrats would have been apoplectic with indignant rage.

What Democrats did speak out against the reprehensible racial attacks on Michael Steele? To my knowledge, only then-NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and then-Rep. Al Wynn. The rest were content to let Michael Steele twist in the wind — for what crime? For being a conservative and Republican African-American.

The second issue revealing Maryland Democrats’ — or at least Baltimore City Democrats’ — lack of ethical concerns is their toleration, without a peep, of the behaviors of Mayor Sheila Dixon until her conviction on one count of misappropriation of funds for taking gift cards for her own use that had been donated upon her request by Developer Patrick Turner for the needy.

Mayor Dixon’s crossing the line of financial propriety is a serial affair. It includes, but is not limited to, her machinations relating to not revealing her sister’s employment with the city to her failure to report her relationship to Ronald Lipscomb and receipt of furs and other gifts on the heels of forging tax breaks for him.

When Mayor Dixon’s defense team made their closing remarks in her trial, the Mayor’s political cronies applauded and walked out of the courtroom derisively. Until her conviction on that one count of misappropriation of funds, no major (or minor, I believe)Democratic politician in Maryland openly criticized any of her ethically questionable behaviors of the last few years.

Do you like one-party rule of Baltimore City? Do you like political corruption?

Your answer must be “yes” or “no” to both questions.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

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