The shocker victory of Republican governor-elect Larry Hogan here in deep blue Maryland is a vivid example of how the Democratic Party is paying the price for having sold its base down the river. Here is WaPo on the physics of Tuesday's gubernatorial Democratic unraveling here in the Free State:
With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, [expected winner Democratic Lieutenant Governor Anthony] Brown was winning handily in [heterogenous] Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and he was well ahead in the city of Baltimore. But turnout appeared fairly low in those populous jurisdictions. And Hogan led everywhere else, including in the Baltimore suburbs.
That is the gist of how Brown, the anointed successor to two-term Democratic governor and presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley, became the latest poster child for his party’s haplessness in the face of an auspiciously divisive Republican Party. Hogan will be only the third Republican Maryland governor since Spiro Agnew. The secret of the Dems’ undoing in this election? Inspire your base to stay at home while the Repubs fire up angry voters to stride into the voting booth and whack away at false enemies.
In Maryland, Republican winner-to-be businessman Hogan’s chosen False Enemy Number One was taxes. In an appealingly homey bootstrapping style, he preached, in effect, to pissed-off voters across Maryland: You’re being taxed to death. Out-of-touch spendthrift Democrats raise your taxes again and again while life gets tougher and tougher for you. They raise corporate taxes that scare away the jobs you need. They’re killing you. Me, I’ll cut taxes. I’ll cut you the break you deserve. I’ll bring in the jobs you need. I’ll make the bureaucrats squirm and I’ll leave you freer to succeed.
It’s virtually all horse shit, of course. Ordinary people are in crisis not because their taxes are high, but because their incomes have been flat for decades while expenses have risen and the incomes of the wealthy have soared. And jobs flee states not because states make outlandish demands but because corporations do: they play states against one another in a divide-and-conquer greed game. Each state trembles at companies’ threats that “if you don’t give me (tax break/subsidy/stadium), I’ll pick up and leave for (another state or country).”
But the anti-tax rhetoric plays on a kernel of truth: for people who are suffering financially and who get no relief from employers and unaffordable health care and a ruthless job marketplace, taxes, like any expense, matter. Giving up money hurts. And while you cannot publicly denounce your employer or vote out the health care industry, you can safely publicly rail against taxes and vote against the people who represent them.
The brilliance of the anti-tax gambit, during hard times in a strong-government state like Maryland, is that it enables rightfully angry people to vent their economic rage at a passive bystander (a state government that won’t bad-mouth corporations) while sympathizing with the defiant perp (the corporate sector and its righteously indignant preachers, such as governor-elect Hogan).
Democrats such as the defeated Anthony Brown — who strolled around Maryland making vague but pretty declarations about everyone’s right to health care and good schools — fall directly into the clutches of Republican fake populists. Such faint-hearted Democrats personify the accusation that government cannot be trusted. And by zipping their mouths shut on the vital question of who in fact is screwing most Americans, Dems squander their trump card in a nation where any given citizen will tell you bluntly that the rich are the boss.
I’ll wager it didn’t help, either, among many white suburban and rural constituencies here in Maryland, that Anthony Brown is black. His carefully toothless approach to the hidden tensions of race in American electoral politics, like that of President Barack Obama, could not defang this venerable beast.
In effect, the Dems are the paralyzed arm of the corporate party. They are paralyzed by the very body of moneyed contributors they serve. And the Republicans are the arm of the corporate party that remains free to swat, to finger-point, to threaten, to deceptively beckon.
You really couldn’t design a one-party system much better.