LET ME TELL you something," Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg, the former lieutenant governor, said in Glen Burnie Monday, the day he and about 20 other former Democratic officeholders endorsed a Republican for governor. "Real Democrats care about the state of Maryland."
Real Democrats? I'm confused. I figured real Democrats - you know, the real party animals - would back a Democrat for governor. But, hey, it's a free country, and a man's got to do what a man's got to do.
Four years ago, Steinberg backed the Republican Ellen Sauerbrey over the Democratic incumbent Parris Glendening, so he's crossed this street before. But now we have a group of other former officeholders stepping over the line to support Bob Ehrlich. Plus, there's a group called Democrats for Ehrlich, and Clarence Mitchell IV - the soon-to-be former state senator from West Baltimore and grandson of civil rights leaders - has moved over to the Republican's camp.
So some of you, looking at all this through the lens of tradition, might be confused. Aren't there striking differences between Republicans and Democrats? Of course there are.
Let me count the ways.
You're a Republican if you support military spending. You're a Democrat if you support spending.
You're a Republican if you think a budget deficit on the state level is the result of wasteful, imprudent overspending, but one on the federal level is the understandable result of a sour economy.
You're Democrat if you think that the federal deficit is the result of ridiculous policies that erased years of surpluses, but that the state deficit is the understandable result of a sour economy.
You're a Republican if you had no use for Bill Clinton. You're a Democrat if you knew Clinton was a phony-baloney but voted for him anyway.
A Democrat looks across an open field to a fetid, buggy marsh and calls it an environmentally critical "wetlands." A Republican looks at the same thing and calls it a "water hazard."
You're a Republican if you think property owners should have the right to fill in wetlands and turn them into ugly, sprawling developments. A Democrat thinks you should get a permit first.
You're a Republican if you drive a humongous, greenhouse gas-producing SUV. You're a Democrat if you drive a humongous, greenhouse gas-producing SUV but always with dark glasses and your head hung low behind the wheel.
Ehrlich, the Republican, supports the death penalty. But then, so does his Democratic opponent, Kathleen K. Townsend. So does Clinton. So does Hillary. So there.
When they have trouble sleeping, Republicans pop a couple pills produced by pharmaceutical companies in which they own stock. Democrats just watch Paul Sarbanes on C-span.
You're a Republican if you long advocated ending "welfare as we know it." You're a Democrat if you supported Clinton, who stole that theme from Republicans.
Republicans miss the days when a man could finish a big, red-meat meal in an expensive restaurant with a fine cigar. Democrats miss being able to sneer disapprovingly at them from the next table.
Republican leaders think public transportation is a waste of money. Democratic leaders think it's a great thing - as long as the light rail line doesn't stop in their neighborhoods.
Republicans think the answer to drug addiction is more cops - as long as the cops don't bust their kids. Democrats think the answer is more treatment - as long as the treatment centers aren't located in their neighborhoods.
Democrats support unions and will step into picket lines. Republicans think pickets work best with colonial-style homes.
You're a Democrat if you admired Al Gore. You're a Republican if you admired Louise Gore.
Republicans do not believe in global warming and think it's a ridiculous notion made up by lefty scientists who want to destroy the American economy. Democrats respond to global warming by turning up the air conditioning in their SUVs.
Republicans opposed increased fuel efficiency in automobiles. But then, so did Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat last we checked, who called herself "an industrial-strength environmentalist."
You're a Republican if you think Charlton Heston and Arnold Schwarzenegger provide insightful commentary and leadership on national affairs. You're a Democrat if you think Warren Beatty and Barbra Streisand do.
You're a Republican if you relish the company of politically connected, fashionably thin fat cats. You're a Democrat if you relish the company of politically connected, fashionably thin fat cats at a $2,000-a-head lobster-and-Chablis fete at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Mass.