Larry Hogan is no Donald Trump, but Ben Jealous might be

Marylanders interested in sending a message to Donald Trump this Election Day couldn’t do better than to re-elect Larry Hogan as governor.

Let me explain.

Yes, both are members of the Republican party. Both are chief executives in politics, and both went to their current offices having never won an election before. But that’s basically where the similarities end.

Donald Trump is a famously polarizing figure whose net popularity, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling aggregate, has been around 10 points underwater since he took office. Governor Hogan’s early-tenure “honeymoon ratings” of 60 percent approval have since ballooned to a nearly unmatched 70 percent — only Gov. Charlie Baker in Massachusetts is more popular.

Anyone who follows Donald Trump is all too familiar with his penchant for igniting or jumping into controversies, bringing the heat of national attention to all manner of issues. (Remember when he injected himself into the kneeling-for-the-flag controversy last September?) But watch Larry Hogan’s acceptance of the GOP nomination from this past June and you see a man as genial and good-humored as you’ve ever met.

And in intra-party disputes, Mr. Hogan has shown he’s no lapdog. Mr. Hogan never endorsed voting for Mr. Trump and even amidst the gleam of Mr. Trump’s national victory, he has never sold out to the man. As a prominent Republican who is unafraid to criticize the president when appropriate, Governor Hogan is the sort of backstop (Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska is another) keeping the Republican Party from being a cult of personality that worships Donald J. Trump and rubber-stamps every single off-the-cuff idea that leaps from his orange-ensconced head. (Mr. Trump’s fascistic and illegal idea that his government “take the guns first, go through due process second” was DOA thanks to no-nonsense resistance from within his own party.) Mr. Hogan’s re-election slogan — “Independent Leadership That Works” — rings true.

The Trumpian figure in this race, the stand-in for the national party who would drag Maryland back from our progress of these four years — is Ben Jealous.

Last month, while answering press questions about economics at a public, outdoor news conference, Ben Jealous dropped the F-word — certainly a more Trumptastic turn of phrase than any Governor Hogan’s uttered. About a week later, Mr. Jealous skipped the Maryland Association of Counties Convention in a move reminiscent of Mr. Trump’s absence at the conservative CPAC conference during the 2016 primary season. And as the candidate who has allied himself closely with Bernie Sanders and other U.S. senators, Ben Jealous is the one tying his vision and priorities to a national party. But what’s most concerning are his objectives.

While it is common to lament Mr. Trump’s “excesses” as he governs with Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, it’s important to remember that everything Mr. Trump has done with Congress he has done with a razor-thin Senate margin of two votes. Hence the defeat of some stronger potentialities, like the repeal of Obamacare (three Republican Senators defected). But Ben Jealous has not been shy about his policy plans — an unprecedentedly high minimum wage, an idea that you can “make college tuition-free,” “Medicare-for-all,” and the list goes on, with goals further “left” than Trump’s are “right.” With (as is likely) solid majorities in both chambers of the State House, Ben Jealous would pursue his agenda with Trumpian zeal and a similarly Trumpian disregard for his enemies — the whole proportion of the state who disagree with his legislative impositions on their lives — but with success on a scale we’ve not even heard of from this president.

The other way, the way forward for Maryland and all of us, is embodied in Governor Hogan. Governor Hogan has spent years working with a doubly Democratic legislature and officials like Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot. (Indeed, the two have a “bipartisan friendship” profiled by The Sun and the Washington Post). Governor Hogan represents the spirit of cooperation, geniality and hard work that we only wish existed in Washington. Governor Hogan is independent-minded, not a cardboard cutout for the national party, and is focused on the job we hired him for: being governor of Maryland. He is everything we wish our president was. And that is why we should re-elect him this November.

Noah Diekemper is a data modeler at Allegis and a Hogan campaign volunteer; his email is ndiekemper@gmail.com.

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