Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
On Jan. 17, the candidates for Maryland governor filed their fundraising totals thus far. Republican incumbent Larry Hogan currently has more campaign cash than all seven of the Democrats running against him combined. His approval rating among likely voters is more than 70 percent, according to a poll released last week, and he holds a commanding polling lead over his challengers.
Though Maryland is a solidly blue state, we could be on the verge of re-electing a Republican governor. In an era of extreme political polarization, Hogan has found political success by framing himself as a sensible moderate. But the truth is that Republican leadership never serves the public good, no matter what package it comes in.
Aware that it is in the state’s political minority, Hogan’s office has worked to avoid controversy at all costs. He’s done a masterful public relations job, convincing most Marylanders that his administration is different from Republican officials in the rest of the country. He frequently employs rhetoric that is critical of all other politicians and “politics as usual.” His lack of relevant education or experience was spun as a positive in the campaign. He ran solely on his business background and a promise to shake up establishment politics.
This campaign strategy naturally invites comparisons to Donald Trump, but I want to steer away from anything that can be confused as equivalency. It is these comparisons that seem to aid Hogan’s public image. As the most visible member of the GOP, Trump spews hatred and has no semblance of decency. When placed side-by-side with that, Hogan may not look so bad. After all, his Twitter account is well-manicured, and he doesn’t take strong stances on social issues.
But in the 2018 election, we need to recognize Trump as the symptom of a larger, systemic failure. This means taking state elections seriously and voting out anyone who has been complicit. Falling to the right of center and to the left of Nazis can no longer be our benchmark for Maryland’s leader.
So let’s be clear about who this so-called moderate is. Hogan has received thousands of dollars in donations from high-profile conservatives, including the Koch brothers. He opposed letting Syrian refugees seek safety in Maryland. Hogan received an endorsement from the National Rifle Association and told gun-rights activists he would expand their access to firearms. Hogan refused to sign legislation designed to protect the LGBT community and proposed a tax credit that would do nothing to stop participating schools from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He also extended summer break for the whole state, an overreach of power that harms low-income families. He wanted to cut $275 million from public schools and called teachers union officials “thugs.”
Time and again, Hogan has placed the appearance of economic progress over the needs of marginalized groups. Just this month, as Baltimore children had to wear winter coats inside schools without heat, our governor offered more than $3 billion in tax breaks to certain large companies in the hopes of attracting Amazon.
In a year when federal politics dominate headlines, we cannot overlook the governor’s mansion. Currently, Hogan has the money and the approval rating to win. But the great irony of his time in office is that in focusing so much talk on changing “politics as usual,” he has given us exactly that. Our government continues to undervalue education and ignore the oppressed. That won’t change if we leave Hogan in office.The idea of the moderate Republican has always been a lie that invites us to be complicit with injustice in the name of bipartisanship. We must not fall for it.
Jack Lewis is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org