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Minnich: With both sides critical, Gov. Hogan must be doing a good job

The best evidence that Gov. Larry Hogan is doing a good job is the criticism levied at him by Haven Shoemaker, one of Carroll County’s Republican delegates to Annapolis, and apparently a self-appointed clone of Donald Trump.

If Shoemaker isn’t channeling the president for the gratification of the local branch of conservatives who would deem Attila the Hun a liberal, then he must be posing for an ascension up the ladder of politics.

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He took a page from the Great Divider, infamous for his belittling of targets of his disdain, by calling Hogan “Lockdown Larry,” and other alliterative nicknames, with the same obliviousness to how classless it comes off as when Trump does it to Joe Biden or the late John McCain. Neither Trump nor Shoemaker took to heart the kind of motherly advice that instilled good manners in us before the age of 5: Name-calling is low-class, not to mention childish, and it diminishes the name-caller more than the target.

Democratic party leader Don West also criticized Republican Hogan’s policies, but it was civil; you expect obligatory partisan opposition. 

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Bleats from both sides indicates the governor is a centrist leader with tough decisions to make.

Calling Hogan “Lockdown Larry” or Vice President Joe Biden “Sleepy Joe” is simply not an argument or even a riposte in one. It’s a crude lapse of good taste and displays a of lack of rhetorical skill.

“Ah, but that’s just politics,” is the excuse.

Yes, and that’s just the problem. If political leaders can taunt those who oppose their policies with the immaturity of a schoolyard bully, it says more about those citizens who condone it than it does the opponent. And it is a bleak warning about the survivability of our brand of democratic engagement.

This behavior is nothing new for the delegate from Hampstead. As mayor, he almost lost the Hampstead bypass by disrupting tense negotiations between the state highway administration and the owners of the land that needed to be acquired.  Derailed talks between the town and the state were put back on track in large part because of hard work of county employees, who brought sides together behind the scenes.

Then, at the obligatory ribbon-cutting ceremonies when the bypass was opened, the loquacious Mayor Shoemaker stepped up to the microphone to take credit for how he had singlehandedly brought the program to fruition — complaining about interference from others — right after a state official thanked all those present for their parts in bringing sides together.

The point is that Haven Shoemaker sometimes talks too much and listens too little.

He began targeting Commissioner Julia Gouge in letters to the editor as the clock ticked down toward the elections of 2004. It was obvious he was running for her job, and from the recklessness of rhetoric in his writings he seemed to care nothing for the facts. The issue was that he was increasingly conservative, and she was labeled by a core of local activists as a “liberal.” A RINO — Republican in Name Only.

Such bargain-basement slogans and general name-calling were the only things a tea-party conservative needed to get a campaign going in the era of Newt Gingrich and The Pledge. Conservative strategist Grover Norquist’s “pledge” was a challenge to anyone seeking public office to sign a promise that under no circumstances would they ever support any increase in tax revenues.

The simplistic rationale is that government already collects too much in tax dollars and should cut costs. The less honest and unspoken premise of it is, the public is just dumb enough to elect those who stick to that absolutism and demonize anyone who challenges them with intelligent arguments to the contrary.

Worked for Rep. Andy Harris, and the likes of Cotton, Jordon, and a host of others now in the U. S. Senate and Congress. And it worked for the man who boasted that he could stand in the middle of Times Square and shoot someone, and people would still vote for him.

He was right about that. Makes you proud, doesn’t it?

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Dean Minnich served two terms as county commissioner after a career in newspaper writing and management. His email address is dminnichwestm@gmail.com.

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