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Dan Rodricks

Dan Rodricks: Maryland lieutenant governor candidates: a comparative study | COMMENTARY

Candidates for Maryland lieutenant governor are Aruna Miller, Democrat, and Gordana Schifanelli, Republican.

I realize that most of my fellow Marylanders will not vote for the next governor based on his selection of a running mate. The lieutenant governor earns about $150,000 a year as backup quarterback; unless a governor goes on the injured reserve list or gives the LG something really important to do, the LG pretty much rides the bench.

So most voters are choosing between Wes Moore, the Democratic candidate, and Dan Cox, the Trump-endorsed Republican. They’re not looking so much at the women running with them — former Maryland delegate Aruna Miller with Moore and attorney Gordana Schifanelli with Cox.

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But I’ve taken random glances at those two and, judging from what they’ve recently tweeted, it appears that Miller has the edge when it comes to — how can I put this gently? — empathy, rationality and command of facts.

For example, Miller acknowledged Monday as World Mental Health Day and pledged to “address the mental health crisis and combat stigmas associated with mental health.” Schifanelli, on the other hand, knocked federal efforts to close social and racial gaps in the education of children, tweeting that “Equity = Marxism.”

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Also Monday, Miller acknowledged Indigenous Peoples Day, stating that she and Moore “recognize the accomplishments, stories, and struggle of Indigenous people in Maryland and across the country.” Schifanelli offered no such acknowledgment.

On Oct. 9, the comparison was really stark. Miller tweeted pictures from Sunday’s Fiesta Baltimore and stated, in English and Spanish, her high regard for “the contributions and influence the Latino community has in Maryland.” Schifanelli? She promoted an upcoming conference on the “transgender crisis in Maryland.”

And this is where I depart from the comparative study to focus on the Republican candidate alone. It’s a walk in a weird, weird world.

In social media and friendly interviews on conservative forums, both Cox and Schifanelli frequently claim that public schools “indoctrinate” students. They use that word a lot. In an interview with a Fox station, Cox referred to “pre-K to third [grade] transgender indoctrination.” He claimed, without evidence, that, if elected governor, Moore “will force transgender ideology on students behind parents’ backs.”

Schifanelli apparently shares this irrational obsession, or maybe it’s meant to be a fear mongering tactic.

Her Oct. 9 tweet appealed to Montgomery County parents to “come and learn what your children are going through in silence and often without your knowledge or awareness.” The tweet promoted an Oct. 19 event in Rockville sponsored by a group called United Against Racism in Education.

The group opposes the teaching of “critical race theory,” the reddest of all red herrings, and UARE is apparently concerned that “transgenderism” has become a “crisis” in public schools. The guest speakers for the Oct. 19 event include a mother of nine children whose oldest son “was brainwashed into the gender ideology,” and a journalist for a Christian news source who claims “transgenderism is producing obscene profits for those pushing it.”

Had I been granted an interview with Cox as I requested, I would have asked for evidence that our schools have a “transgender crisis.” Without an explanation, it appears to be either a bizarre fixation or phobia, and hopefully most Marylanders want neither in their next governor or lieutenant governor. (Far more preferable would be an empathetic governor and lieutenant governor who acknowledge the real mental health crisis experienced by young people dealing with sexual identity and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment.)

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There was one other Schifanelli tweet that revealed either her willful ignorance of facts or her keen ability to call up down and down up.

On Oct. 8, she tweeted a picture of herself with these words: “Love freedom as if your life depends on — cause it does: be fit, smart and [a] critical thinker. Everything democrats are not. Vote Republican down the ticket.”

Based on that last bit, on the difference between Democrats and Republicans, I was inclined to conclude that Schifanelli spends too much time watching Fox News or other right-wing media. But even the conservative Washington Times published a story under this headline: “Democrats more educated than Republicans, Pew Research Center survey finds.”

Pew found that 54% of college graduates either identified or leaned Democratic compared to 39% who identified or leaned Republican. So much for Schifanelli’s claim that Democrats are not smart — or, at least, not as smart as Republicans.

Lack of critical thinking appears to be epidemic among Republicans who continue to worship Donald Trump and believe the former president was deprived of a second term because of a “stolen election.” A new study from the Rand Corporation revealed that Americans on the right are more inclined to believe lies than people on the left. The study looked at the role of reasoning and cognitive biases in what the authors called “truth decay,” and found conservatives more susceptible to it. Among the findings: “Resistance to Truth Decay was most consistently associated with those who … voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.”

As for Republicans being “fit,” and Democrats not — again, Schifanelli has it upside down. In just one measure — deaths from COVID-19 — the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, in two states (Florida and Ohio), average excess death rates were 76% higher among Republicans than Democrats. In another study, researchers from the University of Maryland found that counties with Republican majorities had a greater share of COVID deaths compared to majority-Democratic counties.

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“Be fit, smart and [a] critical thinker,” Schifanelli said.

Well, at least she has aspirations.


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