Dan Rodricks

No, Governor, ‘both sides’ are not to blame for ‘toxic politics’ | COMMENTARY

Having watched and listened to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan during his book tour over the last couple of weeks, two things stand out: He left open the possibility of voting for the reelection of President Donald Trump and blames “both sides” for “toxic politics” and our “broken” political system.

Two things about those two things:

  1. If, as he declared, Hogan did not vote for Trump in 2016, when the jury was out on whether he would be the worst president ever, how can Hogan vote for Trump now that he’s proved to be?
  2. Nice try with that “both sides” bit, but it doesn’t work. “Both sides” did not try repeatedly to kill Obamacare after millions of Americans got health insurance through it. “Both sides” did not refuse to consider a president’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. “Both sides” did not give huge tax breaks to corporations. “Both sides” are not engaged in voter suppression. And “both sides” did not abide Trump’s abuse of power, incompetence, corruption, racism and lies.

If Hogan wants to chart a path to the presidency, then he needs to break clear of Trump now and acknowledge that the Republican Party has been the prime obstacle to making the federal government work. Just look at the mess from nearly four years of Trump and, before that, four decades of Republican denigration of government.

Hogan might be pining for the day when Democrats and Republicans actually worked together for the greater good. But you have to set the Wayback Machine several decades to appreciate that. Some examples:


Social Security Act, 1935: Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who won the 1932 presidential election in a landslide during the Great Depression, proposed a national retirement system, part of his New Deal anti-poverty agenda; the act also established the unemployment insurance program we have today. The legislation passed easily in the House and Senate because Democrats had swept to historic majorities in both chambers in 1932. However, most Republicans voted with the Democrats.

Civil Rights Act, 1964: Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, was president. His fight to get the landmark legislation through Congress, despite opposition from members of his own party from the segregated South, is the stuff of legend. The act had bipartisan support in the House, and 27 of 33 Republicans voted for it in the Senate. Johnson, who signed the final bill into law in July 1964, has been famously quoted as saying, “We [Democrats] have lost the South for a generation.” After that, the GOP made direct appeals to Southern whites, and Republican Richard Nixon, who embraced that strategy, won the presidency in 1968.

Voting Rights Act of 1965, Fair Housing Act of 1968: Both these progressive acts of Congress have virtually the same legislative history as the Civil Rights Act: Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the measures.

Medicare, 1965: Democrats championed it while Republicans were split on the legislation that established federal health insurance for senior citizens.

Clean Water Act, 1972: The nation’s landmark legislation to address water pollution had overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate, including votes to override Nixon’s veto.

While he opposed the Clean Water Act, Nixon gets credit for establishing the Environmental Protection Agency. He also called for a national drug czar and treatment for drug abuse, and he opened the door to communist China.

But, of course, Nixon had to resign because of the Watergate scandal, and that narrative includes Larry Hogan’s father, a Maryland congressman who became the first Republican on the House Judiciary Committee to call for Nixon’s impeachment.

Since those days, the term “moderate Republican” has become an anachronism to the point where, in some revisionist stupor, Ronald Reagan looks like one. But Reagan played the race card with his “welfare queen” anecdotes, constantly denigrated government, ignored the deadly AIDS epidemic for four years, and pushed a “trickle-down” economic agenda that spawned the income inequality we have today.


What are the hallmarks of the Republican Party since the 1990s and the nasty Newt Gingrich years? Increasing partisanship approaching tribalism, extreme and uncompromising conservatism, tax breaks for millionaires, loyalty to the gun lobby, refusal to accept scientific evidence that humans cause climate change, and full embrace of the anti-government credo that makes it almost impossible for Republicans to govern.

The party is not a big tent. According to the Pew Research Center, more American voters now identify as either independents or Democrats than as Republicans. And, Pew reported last month, “when the partisan leanings of independents are taken into account, 49% of registered voters identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, while 44% affiliate with the GOP or lean Republican.”

And here’s the real problem: It’s impossible to imagine that most young Americans, the next generation of voters, look at their future — the pandemic and its aftermath, the effects of climate change on the planet, the impact of technology on their job prospects — then look with confidence toward the party of Trump for answers. Quoting Pew again: “Millennials (ages 24 to 39 in 2020) are more Democratic leaning than older generations: 54% of Millennials identify with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic, while 38% identify with or lean to the GOP.”

In the face of all that, Larry Hogan apparently thinks the party of Trump could be transformed into a party of bipartisanship and relevancy, and that he could be the man to do it. Good luck with that, Governor.