Why Is Speaker Busch Enabling Bad Behavior?

The ongoing scandal regarding Democratic Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford) has unified Annapolis in bipartisan calls for Delegate Lisanti’s resignation. The House of Delegates voted unanimously to censure Delegate Lisanti for her use of a racial epithet in reference to a Prince George’s county district in which she was campaigning.

The censure, though, has hardly ended the calls for Delegate Lisanti to resign. To date, the chairs of both the Maryland Democratic Party and Maryland Republican party have called for her to resign.  The Governor, the Legislative Black Caucus, many individual legislators, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, Jews United for Justice and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have all called for Delegate Lisanti to resign or be removed.  Many of Delegate Lisanti’s Democratic colleagues insist that they and their constituents will not rest until Delegate Lisanti is removed from office.

Noticeably absent from the near universal calls for Delegate Lisanti’s resignation is Speaker Michael Busch.  When the scandal finally broke, only as a result of the determined reporting of the Washington Post’s Ovetta Wiggins, Speaker Busch removed Lisanti from a subcommittee chairmanship and got her to “apologize” and attend “sensitivity training”.

It can’t be because of any partisan concern.  Lisanti would be replaced by another Democrat selected by the local Democratic Central Committee.  Busch certainly isn’t protecting his position as Speaker as many of his fellow Democrats have voiced outrage at the thought of Lisanti keeping her seat.

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The real reason explains a lot about why Annapolis is the way it is and why there is no real accountability for Maryland Democrats. Busch is making a mockery of the Maryland Democratic Party and “Democratic Values” by enabling such bad behavior. Speaker Busch is sending an insidious message to all Democratic legislators that he will cover their bad behavior to the hilt and that nothing short of criminality, and maybe not even then, will cause them to be forced to give up their seat.

While Lisanti is flogged in the press and is having to watch her colleagues engage in the kabuki theater of outrage, she knows that the Speaker has her back and she can enjoy the emoluments of her office until the voters turn her out, if the outrage should last that long. This is why even in the face of a unanimous censure vote against her  Delegate Lisanti can defiantly say that she isn’t going anywhere. 

And she isn’t going anywhere because she knows the Speaker has her back. After this media frenzy fades, you can fully expect her to be restored to leadership in the course of time and likely have institutional support when election time rolls around again.

This kind of behavior explains why issues like sexual harassment never really get resolved. It explains why Annapolis remains little more than a drunken Spring Break during session and it explains why even the most hardcore progressive Democratic legislator is simply a hypocrite playing their supporters for marks as they hang on to their office like some title of nobility.

Don’t expect anything to change anytime soon.


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