On a day when the news was full of package bombs sent to kill prominent Democrats and President Donald Trump spewed his daily vitriol like regurgitated Diet Coke, it would have been logical for me, a lifelong Democrat, to double down and vote the straight party ticket. How better, on the first day of early voting in Maryland, to send a message of unmitigated disgust about what’s happening politically in our country?
Like many Americans these past two years, I’ve denounced the almost complete absence of competence, comity and compromise in Washington. And yet, also like many of my fellow citizens, I’ve harbored convictions that most of the problems lay with the elected leaders of the party that I didn’t vote for. And in that way, though there are profound differences between how Democrats and Republicans see the role of government and thus valid reasons to vote as I have, I was still buying into the divide and conquer mentality that the president lives by and that is tearing this country apart.
In looking ahead to the mid-term elections, I realized that unless I myself was willing to cross the aisle for a politician who risked governing differently, even where there were areas of significant disagreement between us, that I couldn’t legitimately complain about others who wouldn’t budge, either.
That’s how I found myself voting to re-elect Larry Hogan, Maryland’s Republican governor.
I don’t like all of Governor Hogan’s policies. Don’t get me started on his cancellation of the Red Line in Baltimore, for example. Or the fact that he is simply too pro- development for my taste. But I like enough of them, including his sound fiscal policies; progressive positions on gun control; leadership on Metro and support for the Purple Line; advocacy for a nonpartisan system of redistricting; backing of a health care reinsurance program; and advocacy in the area of substance abuse treatment, to name a few.
Governor Hogan has comported himself with dignity and civility, kept President Trump at arm’s length and generally refused to engage in the kind of overheated rhetoric that has pitted us against each other to an alarming degree. I also appreciate that he is willing to compromise and work with Democratic leaders in the state when it’s prudent to do so. Some say these are calculated moves rather than deeply held convictions. Does it matter, if the state and its citizens benefit? Frankly, we could use more, not less, of that kind of cunning, if that’s what it is.
I have nothing against Ben Jealous. In fact, I admire him. But he knows very little about Maryland, and many of his ideas, though conceptually appealing to me, are politically unrealistic and even fiscally irresponsible. In the end, however, my vote for Larry Hogan wasn’t a vote against Ben Jealous. It was a vote for a Republican governor who has compiled a generally admirable record while refusing to embrace, in his words, “the extremes of either political party.”
This election cycle, supporting that approach seemed not just plausible, but an imperative political statement against the extremism that is rooted in the White House but has spread across America.
Some Democratic friends with whom I shared my decision said half-jokingly that they would shun me. Others predicted that if Mr. Hogan wins a second term he would stop working with the Democrats and move farther to the right. Both things may happen, but I don’t think they will. My friends are smarter than that; I’m hoping some of them will join me in crossing the aisle this time. As for Governor Hogan, I’m counting on him to show not just Maryland but the country that there is a payoff for those of us who crossed the aisle.
It’s called political sanity.
Lucie Lehmann, a writer, was a former state director for Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and served as a political appointee in the Clinton administration. Her email is Luciemlehmann@gmail.com.