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As Long as We Remember...

November 30, 2005

Winning Over Hearts and Minds

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Folks who want to draw broad sweeping partisan conclusions from the results of Frederick’s recent election – or for that matter, Virginia’s or New Jersey’s elections, are grasping at straws. “All politics are local.”

In Frederick, former Mayor Ron Young and Mayor-elect Jeff Holtzinger blessed us with a good example of a civil, issues-driven election. We can only hope that example will catch on in the coming election year.

Syndicated columnist Larry Elder wrote in October that “rudeness plagues America.” He called to our attention a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll that revealed nearly 70 percent of Americans consider people “more rude” that 20 or 30 years ago. Americans are engaged in a “great sorting-out,” causing folks to stake out “well-defined, even intolerant, ideological camps.”

This is certainly true in Maryland, as Democrats have had to adjust to the greatest challenge to their power in a generation. It has not been an easy adjustment. Add to that the usual “silly season” theatrics that precede an election and we find folks bickering over Oreo cookies, and inflatable pumpkins. Citizens can watch “The Simpsons” on TV and would rather Annapolis provide them answers to healthcare, slots, education, taxes and things they actually care about.

Perhaps – or maybe better put, hopefully – we have reached critical mass in the unpleasantness that we have come to know as contemporary Maryland politics. Citizens tend to get fed up with the constant noise of disagreeable dissent, lose faith in all leadership and, rightfully so, demand a different approach. In Annapolis it is long overdue.

Particularly disturbing was the recent wave of racial slurs shoveled at Michael Steele. Additionally, as we continue to find out that the whole Joe Steffen – Rumorgate – MD4BUSH sad sage was really a political dirty trick by the party of hegemony in Maryland, desperate to get mud to stick to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich; maybe, just maybe, folks will learn from the old adage: “He who slings mud loses ground.”

On a good note, allow me to join the chorus singing Del. Rick Weldon’s praises. There are other local elected officials that represent citizens in a statesperson-like manner. For example, Sen. David Brinkley is always a gentleman willing to reach across the aisle. Fortunately, both have long bright futures ahead. I’m sure you can think of other examples. We certainly need more examples.

To paraphrase Delegate Weldon, in a state where “divisive rhetoric and overly simple distinctions” have become the discourse de jour, it is increasingly important that we reach across the aisle to any member of the opposition party in which there is room for compromise and dignified disagreement. Carroll County’s Sen. Larry Haines says it best by stating that our service to our citizens is all about “people over politics.”

Good grief, when Baltimore’s Sun feels the need to criticize a giant inflatable pumpkin set out for the governor’s kids for Halloween, alarm bells should go off that isn’t this disagreeable approach getting a little bizarre?

To her defense, Sun columnist Laura Vozzella (who originally opined about the defenseless giant friendly pumpkin in her column on October 23) defended her remarks in a subsequent column by saying, “could the column possibly have been tongue-in-cheek?”

Let us lead by example and take her at her word, but another measure of understanding might be that folks are getting tired of the Sun’s sanctimonious preaching about every little (real or imagined) splinter in the Ehrlich administration and overlooking their own lumber-cart of selective, agenda driven reporting.

Alan Brody of The Gazette reported on November 11: ‘‘The first lady is very, very energized… [that Governor Ehrlich] heard her talking to a catalog company the other day about a big, glaring Santa.” Personally, I hope it’s of the size that qualifies as a float in the Macy’s Day Parade. To paraphrase my Mom: “If they keep whining, let’s give ‘em something to really whine about.”

Historically, conservatives (moderates) have governed Maryland – from both parties. How quickly we forget that they are many examples in by-gone years in which members of both parties would debate the issues of the day and then enjoy each other’s company for dinner and camaraderie in the evening and work through their differences for the benefit of all citizens.

Before your itchy fingers reach for the keyboard to email me examples of rancid rancor from the past, perhaps it would be better if we all obsessed with the positive for a change. My cousin, Del. Wilbur Magin, represented Carroll County from 1959 to 1967. I have no illusions that there were not awkward moments in “the good ole days.” I was young when he served and I did not know him well, but I remember him being pretty unhappy at times.

Oddly, as responsible members of the national Democratic Party attempt to move to the center, the Maryland Democratic Party, like lemmings to the sea, is hell-bent to continue to swing precariously to the Left. This leaves many conservative Democrats wondering why they remain hitched to that hell wagon. This is a great opportunity for the Maryland Republican Party.

What is in the best interests of Maryland citizens is for all to join in honest debate regarding the best policies and initiatives available for the citizens we serve. I hope that the voters will continue to recognize the elected officials who are in office simply to serve themselves and manipulate the system in order to maintain the hegemony of the Democratic Party instead of serving citizens.

A gain of 15 Republican delegates and five Republican senators will make it harder for the Democrats to simply over-ride a governor’s veto. Then and only then, will Democrats have to defend their positions – and many are not defensible.

As we look forward to the long-view and the state elections next November, remember, there are more Democrat incumbents in Annapolis than Republican incumbents. With the “15 and 5” magic numbers looming, let’s be smart and not knock off the conservative Democrats that are predisposed to vote our way.

This election season will spring forth ever more bizarre grandstanding by Democrats. Perhaps some of that behavior needs to be ignored and the energy that otherwise may be spent on responding, be put in re-doubling our grassroots efforts to show that the Maryland Republican Party has a plan and a vision to address the issues that affect citizens in their day-to-day lives.

Let us concurrently look forward to winning as many seats as possible and winning over the hearts and minds of as many Democrats as possible – one by one.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at:

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