The Unraveling Continues

As impressive and courageous as Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee  was, the day was a total disaster for the country.  Another woman making a claim of sexual abuse disbelieved and disregarded by a group of older, white men.  Another gutting of what should have been a search for truth.  Another hypocritical claim that Republicans are not engaging in partisan warfare.  Another privileged man claiming to be a victim.

Anyone with even the slightest degree of open-mindedness would have had to acknowledge that Ford’s testimony was compelling and credible.  There was absolutely no reason for her to go public with her accusation against Brett Kavanaugh other than her sense of civic duty.  Her decision has cost her dearly and in all likelihood will be for naught.  Senate Republicans were never going to take her charges seriously and were, to borrow Lindsey Graham’s language albeit with a different purpose, engaged in a massive scam.

Ford truly was a profile in courage.  Terrified, she testified anyway with directness, authenticity and a total lack of evasion.  She may inspire other women or silence them if they look too closely at how her words were disregarded by the majority party.

Kavanaugh, by contrast, provided a stunning demonstration of his lack of judicial temperament.  He acted out in a way for which any woman would have been flayed alive.  The mix of out of control anger and weepy emotion were both inappropriate and unconvincing.  And the interrupting, talking over and patronizing address to women senators were evidence of his true character.  As one Internet meme put it, imagine what this angry man would be like when he was drunk.

The contrast between his self-description, for example in his interview with Fox News, and his yearbook and other accounts is a gulf too wide.  He ducked questions about his drinking other than to trivialize his behavior or to argue that the drinking of senators questioning him had any relevance.  He openly lied about complying with state law, which had raised the drinking age in Maryland to 21 just as he was turning 18.  His ease in misstating that reality is the problem more than that he was an underage drinker.

As angry and self-righteous as Kavanaugh was, he met his match in the screed offered up by South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who has seemed to come loose from his moorings ever since John McCain died.  Graham conveniently brushed aside the years of hyper-partisanship exhibited by Republicans, including failing to give Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland the courtesy of even a hearing.  Visions of pot and kettles come to mind.

As awful as the hearing was, the long-term fall-out will surely be even worse.  We are about to get someone on the Supreme Court who cannot even pretend to be open-minded or non-partisan.  His railing against left-wing conspiracies and the “revenge of the Clintons” guarantees that he will never behave) as fair-minded or as a neutral umpire.  He has revealed himself to be a partisan warrior with an ugly temper.

it’s laughable that Graham would threaten Democrats with obstructionism when they regain control of the Senate.  What does he think happened the last time Republicans were the minority?  Moreover, their willingness, in the immortal words of Mitch McConnell, to plow through with Kavanaugh’s confirmation shows that they care not a whit about normal process.  No FBI investigation.  No questioning of Mark Judge.  No opportunity for other accusers of Kavanaugh to speak to the committee.  Graham is a hypocrite who once knew better.

The only upside of yesterday’s political charade is that it may inspire even more Democrats, especially women, to vote in November.  While it is sometimes said that Republican voters will reward their partisans for giving them another conservative member of the Supreme Court, will they be as motivated as Democrats, given that they have already gotten their payoff?

Christine Blasey Ford reminded us that there are lots of decent people remaining.  Off yesterday’s hearing, I would far prefer to see her on the Supreme Court rather than Brett Kavanaugh.  He is a bully, a whiner, given to fighting dirty if that what it takes to win.  That’s not the kind of person we want on the highest court in the land.

What’s the matter with Maryland Democrats?

Has it been too easy for too many years?  Is it too hard to run against an incumbent Republican Governor who is personally popular?  Is it too difficult to support a political outsider who has stumbled at the start of his campaign?

Or is the real question whether Maryland really isn’t as much of a blue state as people have long asserted.

While lots of other states are talking about a blue wave that is coming in the November Election, Maryland Democrats seem to be in a daze about their prospects this fall.

In Pennsylvania for example, there’s an army of young, first time candidates, many of them women, running to unseat entrenched Republicans in suburban districts outside Philadelphia.  Grass roots organizations are sprouting all over the place.  Democrats are on track to reclaim four or five congressional seats.  The incumbent Democratic Governor and U.S. Senator have double digit leads over their Republican challengers in every poll.

Let me remind you that Donald Trump won Pennsylvania in the 2016 Presidential election.  Rather that sulking or giving up, citizens, many of them new to politics, have become energized in a way not seen in mid-term elections in decades.  Starting with a small group of friends, my wife and I created a PAC and have raised nearly $200,00o to support candidates running for the state legislature.  What’s most significant about that accomplishment is that it is but one of many similar efforts.

Yet, most of the public statements about the Maryland gubernatorial race sound as if Democrats have thrown in the towel.  If you look beyond the superficial assessments of the campaign, there should be sufficient  grounds for working hard to defeat Larry Hogan for reelection rather than the defeatist attitude that so many are exhibiting.

Start with the polls.   Hogan is personally liked by voters, but they are not particularly supportive of the policies he backs.  By contrast, the campaign proposals offered by Democratic candidate Ben Jealous have much higher levels of popular approval.

Hogan has more money and has already gone on TV, but recent elections around the nation demonstrate that having the most money is not always decisive.  Jealous does need to get his message out, including critiquing Hogan’s record.  To do that, Democrats need to step up and give financial support to his campaign rather than acting as if Hogan’s re-election is inevitable.

Right now, Hogan is, somewhat perversely, benefitting from not being as awful as Donald Trump.  What an incredibly low bar.  He has selectively criticized some of this admintration’s actions while remaining silent on many others that have damaged the state that he governs.

Hogan, moreover, sometimes sheds the moderate skin that he has worked so hard to wear during the campaign.  For example, he has stumped in Pennsylvania for Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner, who could well have garnered the endorsement of the Neanderthal Party as well. On the campaign trail recently, Wagner repeated an extremist trope comparing immigrants to raccoons that had invaded someone’s house.  He has consistently undercut efforts to adequately fund public education, has stage managed bills in the Republican-controlled state senate to reduce a woman’s right to make decisions about her personal health and is an avid supporter of the NRA.

And he is Larry Hogan’s pal.  Similarly, in case you missed it, Hogan recently told reporters that one of his closest friends in the Republican Governor’s Association was Mike Pence.  Draw your own conclusions.

While I realize that the Jealous campaign has committed some amateurish mistakes, Hogan is hardly invulnerable.  Moreover,if Democrats don’t get their act together and rally to the support of Jealous, a lot of down ballot candidates will be jeopardized as well.

To take two examples, if Calvin Ball in Howard County and Johnny Olszewski in Baltimore County are to win their races, they will need a strong turnout for the top of the ticket.  Similarly, holding onto enough Democrats seats in the General Assembly to be able to override vetoes if Hogan does get re-elected requires much more energy than Democrats have exhibited so far.

There will always be people who think the challenge is too hard or that the nominee is too far from perfect.  And of course there are a few members of the Opportunist Wing of the Democratic Party who see their future more closely aligned with Hogan’s.  But all of that is really beside the point.

As Jason Waskey pointed out in a recent essay for Maryland Matters, the numbers still favor a Democrat.  The challenge is to put in the work needed to elect Jealous rather than carp on the sidelines or paint Hogan as better than he is.  There’s plenty of time if that time is used effectively.  Democrats in the rest of the country see a huge opportunity this year.  What’s the matter with Maryland?