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As Long as We Remember...

December 1, 2010

The Republican Farm Team

Kevin E. Dayhoff

In the days following the November 2 state and national midterm elections, pundits have superficially opined at great length as to the depth and meaning of the phoenix-like resurgence of the Republican Party on the national level.


Beyond the media bright lights and glamour focused on the national contests, the number of Republicans voted into local and state offices lends us a better fundamental nuts and bolts gauge for the future of the GOP.


Writing for the Oregon Statesman, my Capitolbeat reporters’ association colleague, Peter Wong, called the November midterm elections a political hurricane when he recently reported on a presentation by Tim Storey, a senior fellow with the National Conference of State Legislatures.


“Governors: Before Tuesday's election, Democrats led Republicans, 26 to 23; there was one independent. But because of retirements, term limits and defeats, Republicans now outnumber Democrats, 29 to 20….”


“Legislatures: Democrats held pre-election majorities in both chambers in 27 states — including Oregon — Republicans in 14, and split control in eight…  But after Tuesday, Republicans now hold sway in legislatures in 25 states, Democrats in 17, and split control in seven — including Oregon with its 30-30 tie in the House.”


“Control: Democrats hold the governorship and both chambers in 11 states, down from 16 before the election — and Republicans jumped from eight to 20 states...”


One of the numbers Mr. Wong also noted has – politically – even more significance. “Before Tuesday, Democrats held 3,015 seats” in the state legislature chamber most states called the “House” – “Republicans 2,346…” Now Republicans hold 2,901 seats, Democrats 2,476…”


In what most states refer to as the “Senate,” “Democrats dropped from 1,022 to 891, Republicans gained from 892 to 1,018…”


Ponder those numbers for a moment. They seem to indicate that the closer you get to the voters, citizens are putting more conservatives in office than Democrats.


If we may use a baseball analogy, the farm team for future national leadership is turning-out more conservative players than liberals. And developing future conservative leadership in numbers that two years ago would not have been considered by political scientists possible in what was considered then the beginning of the end of the Republican Party.


At the next rung up the ladder politically, T.W. Farnam, a Washington Post writer, took a more nuanced point of view. “The Republican Party's big gains in the House came largely from districts that were older, less diverse and less educated than the nation as a whole. Democrats kept their big majorities in the cities…


“Democrats remained strong in areas with the party's core of minorities and higher-educated whites. But movement of white working-class voters away from the party is a concern for Democrats…


“Candidly, in the near future, the Republican Party simply must reach out more to Latino and black voters – especially in Maryland...”


And I could not agree more with Gazette writer Blair Lee, who recently wrote that “if Republicans remain the party of white, anti-immigration conservatives content to wait every 30 or 40 years until the Democrats self-implode handing them a one-term governorship, they will so go the way of the Gooney birds.”


In sharp contrast with the rest of the nation, in Maryland, the analysis is all over the map. Blair Lee, observed in the Gazette on November 12, “But, while voters across the nation were rebelling against the status quo, Maryland voters cried, ‘We want more of the same.’ So how is that likely to play out, and what's in store for Maryland?”


The key point that should be troublesome for Republicans is that voters flocked to the GOP in “rebellion” to the last two turbulent years of Democratic Party leadership.


It appears that voters may not have necessarily embraced the fundamental Republican view of the future as much as they voted against the Democrats. That is not a sustainable foundation with the American public and its attention span of a goldfish.


However, I part company with Mr. Lee’s analysis: “Sadly, the future for Maryland Republicans (and two-party government) looks bleak. If the Maryland Republican Party was a publically traded company, I wouldn't buy its stock.”


I tend to agree more with former Maryland State Delegate Don Murphy when Baltimore Sun writer Julie Bykowicz quoted him as observing that the Republican Party “should be eager to move beyond Ehrlich. The party… “Needs to be a chorus of opposition, not a rock star with backup.”


Oddly enough, as much as Republicans should be thankful for the past leadership of former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., his loss to Gov. Martin O’Malley may have a silver lining for the future of the Maryland GOP.


Besides, I have never been a fan of the “great person” theory of history.


In Ms. Bykowicz’ article she quotes Mr. Murphy to wisely note: “We turned a pretty good election into a defeat,” Murphy said, describing how Ehrlich's loss overshadowed the local gains. “It's our own fault. We focused all our attention like a laser on one person, one position. And we've got to stop doing that.”


In Carroll and Frederick counties, Republican leadership appears to be much more public policy fundamentals-driven than that of the cult of personality.


According to Ms. Bykowicz, “When … officials are sworn in next month, 15 of the state's 23 counties will be run at the local level by Republicans. Nine of those won't have a single Democrat in their governing body – a phenomenon Republican blogger Richard Cross described as ‘Maryland's red underbelly.’ ”


Or what I refer to as the Republican farm team.


However, to paraphrase my McDaniel College political science professor, Dr. Herb Smith, “Now comes the hard part – governing.”


The cult of personality will only carry you so far, as has been painfully learned by President Barack Obama. The fundamentals of governance simply must be in place.


…I’m just saying.


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