Storylines for the next four years.
Now that the election is behind us, the focus is on the future. If you haven’t listened to our complete election analysis, I invite you to do so here.
Every good story has a plot arc and there will be several in Maryland politics in the next four years. These will certainly be themes of the stories that we will be covering here at Red Maryland.
Without question, the greatest drama and most consequential issue in Maryland politics over the next four years will be redistricting. While the Governor has the first say and initial control of redrawing legislative maps, the General Assembly, still controlled by a Democratic super-majority, could maintain their stranglehold on power by passing their own map over Governor Hogan’s veto.
Will the Democrats stick together to pass a hyper-partisan gerrymander? Can Governor Hogan pass a map that is fairer and overcome any alternative? Will the new maps focus on single member districts for the House of Delegates? Can Governor Hogan succeed in getting the issue transferred to a non-partisan redistricting commission?
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We also have recent events and ever changing case law on federal redistricting that may affect the landscape when the time comes.
The outcome of this struggle will affect the balance of power in Annapolis for at least a decade and possibly longer.
2. Maryland Democratic Civil War
Good results down ballot may cover it but the fact remains that the civil war in the Maryland Democratic Party remains unresolved. The same old leadership in the General Assembly (particularly in the Senate) will have to deal with a more progressive caucus determined to push many of the unpopular, extreme programs touted by Ben Jealous. Will the progressives drive the agenda and push to make Maryland a sanctuary state, pass a statewide $15 minimum wage, etc. or can more moderate Democrats curb these excesses or thwart their efforts to override Governor Hogan’s certain vetoes.
Many progressives are already pushing the line that Jealous’ lost was a “stab in the back” by “corporatist Dixiecrats” who, they will soon realize, still control the levers of power in the General Assembly. Moderate Dems have been proven correct that the progressives are a clear and present danger to the ability of the Maryland Democratic Party to get back its monopoly on power. These establishment democrats will need to curb the extremists in their own party to prevent the next Larry Hogan from controlling the governorship in 2022.
The outcome of this fight will determine what opportunities Maryland Republicans will have to grow their party and continue the realignment made possible by the electoral success of Larry Hogan.
3. The direction of the Maryland Republican Party
Larry Hogan’s historic achievements defied conventional wisdom and blew up every assumption about the difficulty, nay impossibility, of Republicans winning in Maryland. Despite this, many Republicans down ballot could not repeat the Hogan winning formula.
Naturally, Republicans are doing some soul searching but unless the true lessons from Tuesday are learned little will improve for the party in the future.
Some argue that the lack of Hogan coattails was because he was not conservative enough. It is an absurd argument given that Hogan won 1.2 million votes, more than any Maryland Republican has ever won and more than anyone running for Governor has ever gotten. The Governor has focused his governance on lower taxes, pro-growth economic policies, law and order (both being tough on crime and opposing sanctuary policies), and controlling the growth in state spending while fully funding priorities. He has taken head-on many of the most established left wing interests groups in the state from the teacher’s unions to environmental groups and defeated them decisively. He has brought balance to transportation and environmental policies that protect rural interests, farmers, and taxpayers. These are all conservative impulses and formed the basis of a massive general election majority.
Where this criticism has merit is that it acknowledges how Maryland Republicans have failed in basic party building over the last four years. The MDGOP has fallen behind in party registration with Maryland Democrats successfully leveraging the popularity of President Obama and the polarization caused by President Trump to register more and more voters. Maryland Republicans need to get back to basics to counter these trends or the future will only get worse.
As we have noted for years, Maryland Republicans need to also focus more on Maryland and less on national politics. National Republicans have done almost nothing to help their brethren in Maryland despite the millions Maryland Republicans have contributed. Governor Hogan has shown that with the necessary investment, Republicans can win in Maryland. More money and energy needs to stay here and invested in legislative and local level elections.
4. Governor Hogan and his legacy
Not surprisingly, the chorus of Hogan for President has started to swell. I don’t know if the Governor actually harbors any such ambition but he wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t thinking about it, especially as more and more people tell him he would make a great President. I can’t imagine, even he was interested, that any run would occur until 2024 in a post-Trump era, but if he was thinking of a Presidential run how would that affect how he would govern? Would he be more conservative? More pro-life? Would he emphasize his support of immigration enforcement? If he wanted to burnish his conservative bona fides, all three of these questions would need to answered in the affirmative.
If Hogan rejects the siren call to run for President, as he should, what will he want to be his legacy as Governor and how will that affect his governance? Will he look to be elected to office in the future or will be eschew any future political ambitions and be more assertive and stand against bad policy and bad legislation even where the political upside may not be present.
5. Who will succeed Governor Hogan in 2022?
Democrats and Republicans are already maneuvering to run in 2022 to succeed Governor Hogan. For some, their stock rose on Tuesday. For others, particularly some Republicans, their hopes were dashed. The answers to #2 and #3 above will largely play out through these competing potential candidacies. Will Governor have a chosen heir apparent and will some other faction of the party step up to challenge the Hogan faction? Will moderate or conservative Democrats rally behind a single candidate to challenge the influence of progressives in their party or will be see a replay of the 2018 primary?
Personalities as much as philosophy will drive these dramas in the years to come.
6. Partisanship v. Bipartisanship
While Governor Hogan has promised to continue in the style of his first term and embrace bipartisan cooperation with the General Assembly’s super-majorities, it remains to be seen if General Assembly Democarts will reciprocate. Will the Democrats in the legislature continue to invade and strip away the prerogatives of the Governorship? Will they increasingly meddle in the budget process by mandating more and more spending and thwart any tax relief? Will the Senate intervene more and more into Governor Hogan’s appointments to the executive department, the myriad of state commissions, and even the state judiciary?
If they do, will the Governor challenge these incursions and how will the Maryland courts rule on any constitutional disputes?
As you can see, we won’t lack for stories to write and talk about here at Red Maryland. I hope you will keep coming back to see how these storylines are resolved.