Arthur Christopher Schaper
While reading about the Twelve Days of Christmas, Rhode Island version, Dee DeQuattro offered the following:
Well you know what they say... Rhode Island.. it's the next Maryland.
That may not sound like good news, perhaps even snide and cynical.
But think about it. The prior Governor of the Old Line State, Martin O’Malley, put the “P” in progressive. He aggressively pursued the Obama health insurance exchange, to the state’s financial detriment. He granted sweeping naturalization status to illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses, then offering “temporary” housing for illegal immigrant youth streaming across the border, all because of President Obama’s extralegal, unconstitutional executive orders. How do you think the ethnic minorities living in Baltimore and the rest of Maryland’s urban core feel about competing for jobs and resources with people who entered the country illegally?
Let’s not forget the draconian gun control laws pushed by the Annapolis legislature. The Second Amendment protests which rallied around the statehouse rivaled demonstrations in other states. Residents in the western part of Maryland were so fed up with their government, they discussed seceding and forming their own state.
With no compunction or sense of conscience, O’Malley also raised taxes and fees to unconscionable heights just to pay for this progressive pipedreams.
How did that work out in Maryland? Not well at all. Washington Post columnist George Will commented that the best inoculation to liberalism is a heavy, unfiltered dose of it, and Marylanders got it in spades. I even remember reading reports about city council leaders losing their offices, then forced to hold office meetings in a tent.
People started getting really angry.
But that’s not all.
Election Year 2014 produced the welcome sleeper surprise for conservatives across the country. Forget the nine-seat US Senate win for Republicans. Forget the fact that a Republican won my state assembly seat in California for the first time in twenty-two years. Keep in mind that Republicans doubled their numbers in the Rhode Island General Assembly, but look south to Maryland:
A Republican won the Governor’s seat, by seven points, in a deep blue Democratic state.
How did Larry Hogan do it? Is it because his Daddy had experience in politics? Much more than name recognition upsets the political establishment. In an extended piece on Hogan’s GOP win in Deep-Democrat Maryland, I quotes a group of journalist-analysts on the race:
It's not a realignment. It's not turning a blue state red. It's people who are tired of the last eight years.
Republicans, conservatives, and liberty advocates in general should not focus on huge turnovers right away. Can’t be done. Hogan tapped into the eight-year failures of Martin O’Malley. More generally, people get tired of progressivism. They want something better. Maybe not turning a blue state red, Marylanders like Hogan focused on getting a purple hue out of the blue (as did Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker after winning three statewide elections in four years). Rhode Island now has twelve conservatives in Smith Hill, and a restructuring of the Rhode Island Republican Party underway. Concerned citizens can start shifting the Ocean State to the right.
Another analysis of Hogan’s win assessed the Democratic challenger:
The Harvard Law graduate and Iraq War veteran proved to be an uninspiring candidate, tied to an incumbent governor with sinking popularity and a slew of increasingly unpopular tax hikes. In the final month of the election, Democrats admit Brown often seemed to have no message beyond bashing Hogan.
“Sinking popularity” sank RINO-DINO Lincoln Chafee’s reelection bid (he didn’t even bother). You and I can be sure that Gina Raimondo will double-down on unfettered, statist progressivism, but only to her hurt. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio exhorted the same from his fellow illiberal colleagues. How has that worked for him? Besides, Democrats are now the party of “Let’s do what we have been doing”, and what they are doing hasn’t been working.
The most important aspect of Hogan’s win? His own public interest group: Change Maryland.
Politico describes this organization:
An anti-O’Malley clearinghouse, issuing press releases pestering the administration and organizing conservative Democrats, independents and Republicans frustrated with state government. (The groups has more than 120,000 members on Facebook, compared to just under 60,000 fans for O’Malley.)
This anti-tax, pro-growth organization tracked and attacked the O’Malley regime over the taxes, the spending, the moribund economy. Staying focused on the fiscal issues (neither shaming nor affirming stances on other divisive concerns), Hogan took advantage of a bad candidate, a battered Democratic brand, and offered something better.
And he won.
Is a purple turnaround possible in blue Rhode Island? It’s already happening. Dan Bidondi confronted lame-duck Chafee about unelected official support for private-property grabbing RhodeMap RI. Voters, homeowners, concerned citizens blasted the committee approving this plan. Second Amendment supporters have shaken Smith Hill. Speaker Fox has been outed (of office, that is), and new Speaker Mattiello is playing nice (well, nicer).
The lessons which Rhode Islanders can learn from Hogan and Change Maryland? Focus on specific benefits (protecting homes, gun ownership), work with well-connected members, and delivering clear-cut benefits to participants.
Change in Rhode Island? Yes we can!