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As Long as We Remember...

March 26, 2008

Preaching to the Choir

Kevin E. Dayhoff

As April 7, the final day of the 2008 Maryland General Assembly session, looms on the horizon, a great deal of conversation is focused on the fate of many of the “social initiatives” of the administration of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.


The outlook for the administration isn’t bright. The second floor of the State House has failed to get its message out on why we need such broad sweeping social change.


The choir gets it. The congregation is bewildered.


Of course, for those who are pre-occupied with studying the big-picture political theory of Governor O’Malley’s approach to governance, it is not the two weeks remaining that fascinate us. The curiosity is what will be the fate of the next two years of the O’Malley Administration.


There’s a new political paradigm in town and – by all accounts – the O’Malley Administration appears to be the last to know.


For those who were critical of Governor O’Malley’s first legislative session, there as those who understand that it made perfect sense.


After wrestling control of the second floor from four years of conservative leadership, many were braced for a session which would have bolstered the criticism that Governor O’Malley was even too liberal for a cobalt-blue state such as Maryland.


As the governor took the oath of office, many were braced for the worst. The smart thing to do on the governor’s part was to get the congregation calmed-down. It was important to prove everyone wrong, that the new administration was not going to attempt to recreate a Venezuelan people’s paradise in the land of pleasant living on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.


Looking back, many understood that the purpose of last fall’s special taxing session was to get all the revenue issues out of the way in one fell swoop.


In theory, this was designed to pave the way for a broad, sweeping, progressive social agenda in the oh-so-critical second legislative session of the administration.


The choir got it. The congregation was bewildered.


The funny thing about theory is that it does not always work in practical application.


The wheels started wobbling from the very start when it became increasing apparent that the O’Malley Administration would never be able to deliver on much of the populist poppycock necessary to inspire the full support of the extreme left wing of the choir.


After last fall’s special taxing session came to a close, the Maryland congregation threw “stop sticks” in the road; and by the beginning of 2008 the O’Malley-mobile was running on the rims, and the sparks were beginning to fly.


Then, to the sheer dismay of the populist puppet masters, the governor’s approval rating plummeted.


One of the interesting questions for the political scientists is: What happened?


Part of the answer is that the days of a lack of accountability for populist-liberals are gone. Sure, to be certain, the sycophant press that exonerated past liberal regimes is still in place, but its creditability is increasingly questioned and its effectiveness is waning.


The advent of the Internet-based information dissemination age has led to a blogosphere with increasing clout. And not to be overlooked is the fact that – in today’s world – constituents are kept abreast of current events as quickly as they can read their emails.


Add to this a heightened status of other newspapers in the state whose readership is rising as a result of its more credible approach to news reporting.


Simply put, a well-informed constituency is demanding a level of accountability for which the old populist leadership paradigm has not adjusted.


People who know the high level of Governor O’Malley’s technologically proficiency have been left totally bewildered at this administration’s inability to (technologically) get out its message.


Statewide, many have been taken aback with the precipitous increase in the salaries of the administration’s leadership.


Others have shaken their heads at the perceived uncontrolled spending increases.


As it became obvious that the new O’Malley regime was really not going to be able to roll back electricity rates, the costs of essentials like gasoline and groceries escalated, and the economy floundered; a further erosion of support hastened.


The other shoe to drop, above and beyond the faltering economy which is unable, at present, to feed the insatiable diet of a populist agenda, is the dynamic that the same nationalization of the local Maryland 2006 gubernatorial election that worked so well for Mr. O’Malley – is now working against him.


Marylanders resoundingly turned their collective backs on the Clintonista political machine in favor of Sen. Barack Obama, in spite of Governor O’Malley’s highly public support of Sen. Hillary Clinton.


Add to this the disappointing performance of the current session of Congress, of which the Democratic Wave Theory expected Franklin D. Rooseveltian revolutionary results.


And certainly not to be overlooked is the apocalypse-now nature of the national Democratic Party, which is quickly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by its historic bitter infighting.


The question remaining for the political scientists is not necessarily the fate of the O’Malley Administration’s social agenda in the final two weeks of the Maryland General Assembly.


The question is whether or not the O’Malley Administration will be able to avoid the rigidification that so often accompanies leadership in the face of disappointment.


After all, for those with centuries-old roots in Maryland, voting with our feet and leaving the church of pleasant living is out of the question.


And we understand that Maryland cannot prosper if leadership fails.


Will the O’Malley Administration take the opportunity to reassess its approach in the long summer months in the desert after Sine Die? If they do not, the next two years will be long and torturous.


Even the choir is beginning to dislike the taste of the Kool-Aid.


And the congregation continues to miss the message. The choir can’t save you if the congregation is unhappy.


And nothing can set back the career of a young, bright, rising star like not being re-elected in 2010.


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


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