Dan Rodricks: Plenty of Maryland Democrats voted for Larry Hogan. Maybe he should return the favor this year. | COMMENTARY

In November 2018, Larry Hogan became just the second Republican governor to win re-election in Maryland, and he did so with significant votes from Democrats.

In the last two presidential elections, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a lifelong Republican, famously refused to vote for Donald Trump. Instead, Hogan wrote in the names of his late father, Larry Hogan Sr., the first Republican member of Congress to call for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal, and that of the late President Ronald Reagan, his Republican idol.

This time around, Hogan should eschew the weak symbolism of voting for the departed and, come November, vote for a living and sentient being to succeed him as governor. The Democratic candidate, Wes Moore, deserves his serious consideration.


What? That wouldn’t be cool?

It was OK for Maryland Democrats to cross party lines and vote for Hogan twice, but it’s not permissible for a Republican to vote for a Democrat at least once?


That’s what Trumpistas are saying: Because Hogan’s candidate, Kelly Schulz, lost the summer primary, he should now support the winner, even if the winner is Dan Cox, a guy Hogan once called “a QAnon whack job.”

Hogan, the Trumpistas say, should just put aside all his issues with Trump, the so-far-unindicted inciter of the Jan. 6 insurrection, and back the guy Trump endorsed for governor. Hogan should just slap a MAGA cap on his noggin and cast a vote for Cox, a guy who chartered buses to take Trump supporters to Washington on Jan. 6 and sent out a scurrilous tweet about the vice president — “[Mike] Pence is a traitor” — while the Capitol was under attack.

To quote John Turturro as Pete in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” the Coen brothers’ odyssey through Depression-era Mississippi: “That don’t make no sense!”

But then, what does?

If life in the USA made sense, millions of democracy-loving Republicans would have walked away from Trump by now, and a Trump endorsement would be the kiss of death for any candidate anywhere. Instead, we are where we are, and it is what it is: Dan Cox is the Republican candidate for governor.

It’s amusing to watch the old-school, conventional Republicans battle it out with the Trump crowd for the “soul of the party.”

This is the party that fought the Affordable Care Act while 50 million Americans went without health insurance. It’s the party that says no to all kinds of legislative initiatives aimed at helping Americans take care of ourselves, our children, our roads and bridges, and the very climate in which we live. It’s the party of Trump, whose presidency was marked by narcissism, nativism, cruelty and, in the end, an attempt to overturn the 2020 election and stop the peaceful transfer of power. So, when I hear about the battle for the “soul of the Republican Party,” I say, “Yeah, a soul would be a good idea.”

Within this debate is the argument over what makes a Republican a Republican and a conservative a conservative.


The way I hear the right’s criticism of Hogan, he’s considered a RINO (a Republican in name only) because the mainstream media labeled him a moderate and, most importantly, because he did not join the Trump cult.

Otherwise, if life made sense, Hogan would be perfectly acceptable as a conservative.

His record as governor should have made any red-blooded Republican happy.

He put up those cheesy “We’re Open for Business” welcome signs on roads leading into the state. He reduced highway tolls. He ordered schools to open after Labor Day to benefit Ocean City tourism. He took charge of restoring peace in Baltimore after the April 2015 unrest, making the Democratic mayor seem out of touch, feckless and ungrateful. He killed the Red Line light rail project that had been planned for 10 years and funded road projects in the suburbs and rural areas instead. He proposed highway expansions, even a third bridge over the Chesapeake. He shelved the big State Center overhaul, another multibillion-dollar project that would have been a boon to the struggling city. He regularly criticized Baltimore leadership for the city’s chronic crime problems. He opposed the state’s multibillion-dollar investment in public education. He announced a plan to “re-fund the police,” though communities, Baltimore included, had not reduced public safety spending.

So, I chuckle when I hear conservatives complain about Larry Hogan.

It can’t really be his record that ticks them off.


It’s that he refuses to embrace Trump and, now, Cox.

But to expect him to change his tune to, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” is ridiculous.

I suspect that many Maryland Republicans will not vote for Cox. They won’t vote for Moore, either.

But then, maybe some of them, including Hogan, will take their duty as citizens seriously, give Moore a hard look and decide he’s a good choice. They might be so embarrassed at the prospect of Cox having even a decent showing at the polls that they’ll cross party lines in November to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Don’t guffaw. It happened before.

In 1966, Maryland Democrats split bigly over George P. Mahoney, a wealthy business owner and segregationist who ran a racist campaign and won the party’s nomination for governor. Democrats crossed over and helped defeat Mahoney by voting for a Republican who, in the early stages of his career, was politically moderate and supportive of civil rights. That Republican was Spiro T. Agnew, the Baltimore County executive, later Nixon’s vice president and one of the most corrupt politicians of all time.


Hey, you can’t have everything.