The Centrist Facade of Center Maryland

“The news you need, straight down the middle.” That is the mantra of Center Maryland the latest entrant into Maryland’s political blogosphere/new media arena.

Center Maryland decries the “incentives in Maryland’s political system are set up to elect and reward behavior that drives our public discourse toward narrow political extremes.” Center Maryland’s founders claim they are not about “people or posturing,” rather they seek to create a “platform to advance reasonable and responsible policies,” and “common ground” on “common sense policies.”

Don’t believe the hype. Center Maryland is indeed an ideological/partisan enterprise masking itself in the baroque language of pragmatic centrism where all good things are compatible and that hard choices are false choices offered by zealous partisans.

When I see such neither right nor left split-the-difference rhetoric, my bullshit meter instantly redlines.

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A quick look at Central Maryland’s founders instantly belies it’s claim of moderate centrism. They are nearly all former hacks from the O’Malley political machine.

Steve Kearney was Martin O’Malley’s closest political advisor in both Baltimore and Annapolis. He served as O’Malley’s communications chief and left the administration to form a public affairs shop that ran the PR blitz for pro-slots groups during the 2008 referendum.

Whatever you want to say about Martin O’Malley, good or bad, non-partisan, non-ideological, or centrist can’t be one of them. As Veronique de Rugy notes administrations can’t remove ideology from their decisions on public policy because they are essentially ideologues to begin with, and Kearney was the man behind the O’Malley curtain.

Damian O’Doherty is a former chief advisor to Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith and worked for two Democratic majority leaders in the Senate. You may know Damian’s brother, Ryan, by his nom de cyber MD4Bush.

Otis Rolley was O’Malley’s housing director when he was Mayor of Baltimore and served as the first chief of staff for the now disgraced and current resigning mayor of Baltimore, Sheila Dixon.
Martin Knott is a business owner and served on O’Malley’s transition team and serves on the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board. A search of the state campaign finance database shows that Knott has given almost exclusively to Democrats.

How seriously can one take CM’s decrial of tax increases, given that Kearny was the chief mouthpiece for the largest tax increase in state history enacted by his old boss?

Center Maryland’s wobbly façade aside, it purveys a more dangerous fallacy: the notion that centrism itself is non-partisan or non-ideological. In fact, what Center Maryland is peddling is a variant of corporatism, which has a distinctly progressive (and fascistic) ideological heritage. Corporatism is:

a system of economic, political, and social organization where corporate groups such as business, ethnic, farmer, labor, military, patronage, or religious groups arejoined together under a common governing jurisdiction to try to achieve societal harmony and promote coordinated development.

Corporatism is the ultimate public-private partnership. However, there is an ugly bargain involved. Business, in order to thrive, must conform to the political ends of the state.
We see corporatism this writ large in GE using it’s NBC subsidiary to promote the administration’s climate policy, from which it’s other businesses will greatly benefit, and the government payoffs to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries not to mention big labor in return for their support of Obamacare.

Closer to home we see corporatism in the EmPower Maryland scheme whereby the state guarantees profits for utility company in return for supporting Governor O’Malley’s energy agenda. Both BGE and PEPCO produced commercials—targeted to promote the scheme—which end with “this program supports EmPower Maryland.” We also see it in Baltimore’s development political complex, which hands out tax breaks to favored developers, who donate so much campaign cash. Kearny ought to know about this as he was hip deep in it as an O’Malley aide during his mayoral administration.

Center Maryland says it knows government can’t solve all of society’s problems, “But government can and should be an effective partner–working with the private sector–to move our state forward”, and that “the private sector is a force to be nurtured. And both government and business share a responsibility to return Maryland to the moderate, pragmatic leadership that has been central to our state’s success.”

Of course, that pragmatic leadership is Center Maryland’s old dear leader, and they are just the corporatist wheel greasers to bring state business interests in line with the political agenda of the ruling class in Annapolis. Indeed, many state business leaders trade the courage of their convictions in return for a scrap of meat from the O’Malley administration and the Democrat majority, leaving their traditional representation out in the cold. Case in point Delegate Ron George scolding representatives of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce at the GOP legislative briefing last week saying, “You take the wind out of my sails.”

Although Center Maryland would have you believe otherwise, it is no different and there is nothing in the background of it’s founders, or it’s blatantly corporatist bent that says it is anything but partisan.

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