Laslo Boyd: Terrorists, Refugees, & Politicians

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Larry Hogan has demonstrated some impressive political skills.  Start with his victory in last year’s gubernatorial election.  While he certainly got a lot of help from Anthony Brown’s breathtakingly inept campaign, give Hogan credit for taking advantage of the opportunity.

A year later, he’s riding high in public opinion polls and receiving praise from some unlikely quarters.   In Sunday’s New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni extolled Hogan for his popularity in Democratic Maryland, his less partisan approach to governing and the courageous way in which he has battled cancer.  Bruni was obviously charmed by Hogan, which is clearly another of his political assets.

However, Bruni may have gotten a little carried away in his adulation.  For example, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake certainly must have been surprised to hear that Hogan had “taken care not to fuel” the intense criticism of her in the aftermath of the Baltimore riots.  Similarly, his claim of avoiding personal attacks on opponents ignores his description of his predecessor’s Baltimore Red Line proposal as a “boondoggle.”

More troublesome is Hogan joining other Republican governors in announcing that he does not want any Syrian refugees in Maryland.  He knows that he has no authority in an area reserved to the Federal Government, but nevertheless chose to appeal to prejudice rather than demonstrate moral leadership.   That his rhetoric is less extreme than that of Republican presidential candidates is a bar so low it scrapes the ground.

It’s odd to hear people speculate that Hogan may be unbeatable in a 2018 election despite being only one year into his first term.  While there may be fewer prospective opponents than seemed likely right after his 2014 election, there will definitely be candidates better prepared to oppose him than Anthony Brown.  And, unlike Brown, the 2018 Democratic candidate will not make the mistake of underestimating Larry Hogan.

Meanwhile, the spectacle of Republican candidates vying to be their party’s presidential nominee continues to raise questions about this country’s ability to govern itself.   The level of misinformation, outright lies and candidates totally unqualified to lead anything might be amusing if the consequences weren’t so serious. 

Having concluded that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are problems for the Republican Party, I’m comfortable ignoring the daily nonsense that they spew.  I’ll save my attention and energy for the General Election.  Trump may in fact win his Party’s nomination, but I have enough faith in my fellow citizens to believe that his brand of demagoguery will ultimately be rejected.

What is troublesome in the meantime is the unwillingness of the other Republican candidates to call Trump out for his outrageous behavior.    These so-called aspiring leaders lack the courage to stand up to the bully.  What does that say about their ability to deal with world leaders who have real military and economic assets?

The Republican candidates’ stance on the threat to this country of refugees is similarly hard to comprehend.  They are more than willing to turn their backs on this country’s historical openness to refugees and immigrants.  They are eager to appeal to religious intolerance despite their claims of fealty to the U.S. Constitution.   Their arguments about the threats to the homeland are based on fear mongering rather than evidence.  And their unwillingness to apply any restrictions on the purchase of guns by terrorists is beyond surreal.

That Larry Hogan, despite his milder rhetoric, joins company with these charlatans for even a minute is disappointing.  What’s the point of having high public ratings if you’re not going to use them to do the right thing?

Let’s add one more example of terrorism to the mix, this time of the domestic variety.   The fanatic who attacked the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs is probably crazy, but he was certainly given aid, comfort and encouragement by the irresponsible rhetoric of the anti-abortion movement in this country.  And, given their capacity for moral outrage on other occasions, the muted and delayed responses by Republican presidential candidates to this most recent mass shooting make you wonder how they can claim to be pro-life. 

To counter the wave of domestic violence that is terrorizing this country, maybe we need to engage in an active program of profiling.  If we actually did that, we would be taking a close look at white Christian males.  That’s the major common characteristic of the epidemic of mass killings in the United States followed closely by the easy availability of guns.

It’s hard not to be depressed by the current state of politics in this country.  Extreme rhetoric and posturing have replaced leadership and problem solving.  Compromise and bipartisanship are out of fashion.  Opponents of the president aren’t content to disagree with his policies; they focus instead on demonizing him and spreading lies about him. 

The scariest part of the downward spiral of politics is that so many people are disengaging from the process.  The recent news story of the woman on Medicaid in Kentucky who didn’t bother to vote despite the fact that the eventual winner of the gubernatorial race had pledged to end state participation in that program is a metaphor for our times. 

To ensure that a totally unqualified candidate doesn’t get elected next November, it won’t be enough for people to grumble about government, post on Facebook or Twitter or watch televised debates.  Stopping this slide means making the effort to become informed and then doing what fewer and fewer people are doing—voting.

After the Constitution Convention had concluded its work in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked whether the delegates had produced a monarchy or a republic.  His response:  A republic, if you can keep it.  His response is still relevant.

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Laslo Boyd's professional experience includes serving as education advisor to the Governor of Maryland, Acting Secretary of Higher Education, senior administrator in several higher education institutions and university professor.  His work in political campaigns has involved strategic communications, public opinion polling, and development of position papers.  Dr. Boyd has consulted for a wide range of clients in higher education, government, and business.  He has provided political commentary and analysis in both print and electronic media.