Governor Hogan is wrong on this (Updated)
Yesterday, Governor Hogan announced that he now supported calls to remove the statue of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney from the State House grounds. This decision, with no apparent warning beforehand, came after House Speaker Mike Busch announced he supported removal of the Taney statue earlier in the week. All this comes in the wake of the Charlottesville debacle over the weekend and the hysteria occurring around the country regarding the removal of statues now deemed undesirable and unacceptable.
Two years ago, Governor Hogan resisted identical calls being made brought on by similar circumstances. In that year a crazy, racist murderer shot up an African-American church in South Carolina. That disgusting act, like the acts of violent racists over the weekend, put wind in the sails of the the Maoist cultural revolution that has been working for many years to remove much of our history and throw it down the memory hole.
In 2015, Governor Hogan said this in the Washington Post commenting on efforts to change our state song but referencing the Taney statue issue,
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Gov. Larry Hogan (R) says he is opposed to a change in the state song and likened the effort to calls for removing the statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, author of the pro-slavery Dred Scott decision, from the grounds of the State House.
“It’s political correctness run amok,” Hogan said in an interview last week. “Where do we stop? Do we get rid of the George Washington statues out here and take down all the pictures from all the people from the Colonial era that were slave owners? Do we change the name of Washington County, Carroll County and Calvert County?
“You can’t change history, and we’re not going to be able to rewrite history,” Hogan said. “And I don’t think we ought to be changing any of that.”
That Governor Hogan was right. The one who issued his statement yesterday isn’t.
Roger Brooke Taney didn’t rise from the grave and issue any new opinions. No new scholarship or archaeology unearthed some new, unknown facet of the Taney story. Roger Brooke Taney is the same flawed, racist but brilliant jurist he was last week and in 2015. He wrote indefensible racist things in the Dred Scott decision, a decision criticized in its time for largely different reasons. He reflected the racism and white supremacy that was deeply established in the United States of American in his day. That is part of his story and one that cannot be denied. But he also concurred in the Amistad decision, and wrote eloquent defenses of civil liberties, like Ex Parte Merryman opposing a federal government which was arresting citizens with charge or right of habeas corpus, which stand as pillars of our jurisprudence today. His defense of those liberties came with substantial threat to his safety and position at the time as I detailed in a segment on Conservative Refuge Radio.
One’s ultimate judgment on Taney is not the issue. If the century old statue honoring him must now be removed, where do we stop?
Just last week, there was a controversy about our state flag. I shared on last week’s Conservative Refuge Radio a clip from Speaker Busch from 2015 telling the story of the state flag and stating that it is a symbol of reconciliation and unity of disparate points of view. Seems like just the kind of symbol we need right now. But it, inexplicably like Taney, has had the “Confederate” label placed upon it because it includes the Crossland arms symbol used by Maryland units who fought for the Confederacy. Must it now be changed?
And we have the long running effort to change our state song. In 2009, I wrote this,
Our state song was composed at a time of great crisis for our state. Precisely like our national anthem, it encapsulates a period in Maryland’s history when she was under assault by those who sought to impose their will upon her citizens.
For those of you who were also not taught this period of history let me give you the highlights.
Marylanders were certainly not of one mind but tended to have a great deal politically and culturally in common with Virginia and other border south states. In 1860, Marylanders voted for John Breckenridge for President (the same guy who won in Mississippi, Alabama, and the other original Confederate states). Lincoln, got only 2.5% of the vote (who says the Republicans have not made strides in this state.).
Knowing perhaps that 97.5% of Marylanders voted against him, President Lincoln was acutely concerned about the possibility of Maryland secession. While historians have debated the issue, most Marylanders recognized the futility of secession and it was unlikely to ever happen. Taking no chances, however, Lincoln arrested prominent Marylanders suspected of secessionist leanings and imprisoned them in Fort McHenry (yes, ironic) without charge, due process or writ of habeas corpus for years. General Benjamin “Beast” Butler landed troops at the Naval Academy and occupied Annapolis along with the rail line to Washington. This caused the General Assembly, of which Delegate Beidle is now a part, to flee to Frederick. Guns were placed on federal hill in Baltimore with orders to fire if unrest arose (the Washington Monument was among the first targets).
It was in the midst of this that our state song was penned. It encapsulates the fear and dread of real Marylanders who saw their fellow citizens jailed by an oppressive Federal Government for no good reason, who saw Federal troops occupy their land and property like they were in rebellion, which they never were.
Invoking the zeal for liberty of the “Old Line State”, Randall called for what I think most Marylanders would call for today under the same circumstances, resistance.That is why the song resonates and has relevance to 21st century Marylanders. Its theme is not slavery (which Lincoln never touched in Maryland) or white supremacy but the impassioned plea of a free people to resist an oppressive national government. The original words of this song also speak to a real time in Maryland’s history which should never be forgotten, whitewashed or assailed as wrong or evil.
Sadly, too many citizens of this state have no real connection here and even too many native Marylanders have never been taught or taken the time to learn about this critical period of our state’s rich history. That is why we are so vulnerable now to the PC thuggery of ignorant, vapid politicians.
Now that the Governor has capitulated on the Taney statue, the Democrats in our state will see a great wedge issue to advance as part of their progressive cultural agenda they have been pushing for years. Can we rely on the Governor to stand against what he himself called “political correctness run amok” or will we face the heartbreaking possibility that many of our longest held state traditions, like the song and flag, will succumb to the Left’s “anti-Confederate” cultural revolution with a Republican in Government House?
I tell you it gives me no pleasure to write this. I am, and remain, a proud and unabashed apologist for Governor Hogan. I understand the politics and ruthless pragmatism of his alternative mandatory sick leave proposal or his reversal on a permanent fracking ban in our state. I disagreed but the outcomes were inevitable so a calculation not to waste political capital at least made sense. I must also say that there is so much in the credit column that the balance in favor of the Governor is beyond doubt.
But this. I don’t get this. I was so proud of the 2015 Governor Hogan who was the ardent defender of our state’s history, good and bad, and who showed real leadership against the cultural Marxism that is now truly running amok. Now, I cannot honestly trust that the Governor will defend any of it and could not sincerely be able to argue he has not completely capitulated on the entire issue.
Maybe it is smart politically. Maybe it is ruthlessly pragmatic and the price to be paid for the great positives of having this Governor. Time will tell but I fear the cost will be great also.
Update: The Taney statue was surreptitiously removed in the dead of night this morning (Friday 8/18/17) The following is a letter from Senate President Mike Miller detailing why this course of action was wrong.
Here are words I thought I would never write: Senate President Mike Miller is exactly right on this issue and Governor Hogan is lamentably wrong.