Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Wealthy, white Marylanders really love Larry Hogan. As of October 2020, he had a 73 percent approval rating amid the COVID-19 pandemic, successfully capitalizing on his “conscious conservative” branding to establish himself as the go-to example for anyone who truly still believes the country is somehow better off with a strong Republican Party.
Hogan has campaigned on “common-sense solutions” that are really just austerity-driven, run of the mill, center-right policies without the mean tweets. Rolling Stone even profiled him, posting him up for a photo op in the State House and describing him as a hero for having the courage to defy Trump and trust scientists.
Many suspect he’ll use that momentum to run for president in 2024. However, I think anyone who isn’t rich or white knows that Larry Hogan is not their friend, especially when looking at his approach to vaccine distribution.
On Feb. 25, in response to a reporter asking whether he would be setting aside a portion of the doses of vaccines the state is sending to the M&T Bank Stadium mass vaccination site for Baltimore residents, Hogan said the city had received “far more [vaccines] than they really were entitled to” — a claim that is, simply put, wrong.
Data released by Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s office shows that only 38.5 percent of the vaccine doses given to providers Baltimore City actually went to city residents, according to the Baltimore Sun. Nearly half of the city’s vaccine allocation — 55,936 immunizations — has gone to residents of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties. Three percent of Baltimore’s share even went to out of state residents.
Hogan’s rhetoric has also frustrated leaders in the state’s other Black population center, Prince George’s County. There, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has noted that only 11 percent of the doses at the Bowie Six Flags vaccination site have actually gone to Prince George’s County residents, rightfully describing it as “unfair” and “outrageous.”
Hogan was once again incredibly dismissive, shifting the blame to Black communities stating “there’s a lot of reluctance … Many people in Black and brown communities are refusing to take the vaccine.”
Beyond vaccine distribution, Hogan has a long record of disdain towards Black communities in the state, particularly those within Baltimore City. Most notably in 2015, he canceled the Red Line after the police killing of Freddie Gray, citing the riot damage done by “thugs” as justification for ending the Red Line — despite the massive good it would have done for working-class, Black Baltimoreans. He also proposed massive cuts to education funding multiple times, including for disparity grants for Black and brown low-income students and their teachers. This, combined with his active disinvestment from positive social and infrastructure projects that would benefit Black people in favor of suburban ones, indicates that this recent disrespect toward Maryland’s Black centers is part of a pattern.
It’s not lost on me that Hogan has responded with nothing more than a shoulder shrug when asked by Black leadership to literally just fulfill his obligations as the governor of a (very wealthy) state during the pandemic. It’s racist, it’s wrong and it could continue to endanger Black lives that are already at risk. It’s very obvious that distribution of vaccines favors wealthier, whiter Marylanders, and Hogan doubling down on his dismissal of an easily identifiable fact is a dangerous failure of leadership.
Hogan being wrong about how many doses Baltimore City really gets makes the poorly veiled racism of his “entitled” comment that much worse. What does entitled even mean when majority-Black cities such as Baltimore have been struggling to stay safe and stable amid the massive racial disparities exacerbated by COVID-19? Life expectancy has fallen nearly three years on average for Black Americans, and, as Drs. Oni and Uché Blackstock state in a Washington Post opinion piece, “Black Americans are not only twice as likely to die of covid-19 as White Americans but also dying at rates similar to those of White Americans who are 10 years older.”
Even with a vaccination center at the Baltimore Convention Center, the numbers show that Hogan needs to be more aggressive in making sure the most vulnerable Baltimoreans receive the vaccine. But instead of recognizing and responding to the direct needs of the leaders of the state’s (arguably) most important city, Hogan was flippant and condescending.
Nothing about Hogan’s tendency to talk down on Baltimore City and make cuts in the most vulnerable places is “common sense.” It’s a textbook example of how conservative and neoliberal leaders have historically used austerity measures to strategically disenfranchise urban Black communities in favor of suburban white ones. If you didn’t realize that in 2015, I hope the vaccine rollout can help you realize that now.
Larry Hogan has built a career from branding himself as a “likeable” Republican over the years, doing whatever he can to appease his white, wealthy, moderate base. As a two-term governor with presidential aspirations, Hogan needs to be held to a much more critical standard by the entirety of Maryland, not just the Black communities he’s damaging. If he does run in 2024, I hope that the state leaders he dismissed such as Mayor Scott and County Executive Alsobrooks put his ass on blast.
Malcolm Ferguson is a senior English and government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.