Can Hogan lead the GOP sanity caucus in his second term?

Gov. Larry Hogan spent much of his re-election bid fending off complaints from Democrats that he wasn’t opposing President Donald Trump forcefully enough. Hardly a day went by when one candidate or another wasn’t after him to denounce his fellow Republican about something — his treatment of immigrants, climate change, health care, tax policy, race relations, you name it. Mr. Hogan sometimes did rebuke the president — usually calmly — but just as often, he would shrug off the complaints and say he was focused on Maryland, not what’s going on in Washington.

But with his inauguration for a second term tomorrow, the idea that Mr. Hogan could rise to lead the GOP’s anti-Trumpers is gaining some currency among his supporters, with his decision to invite former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sparking a fresh round of tea leaf-reading about how the governor intends to position himself in his party’s national firmament. Is a keynote address from Mr. Low Energy himself the first salvo in a 2020 primary challenge?

That seems unlikely to us, or at least Quixotic, but the idea that Mr. Hogan could become a national symbol of prudence and sanity in the Trump-hijacked GOP is entirely plausible. In fact, if he intends to stand up for his constituents, it’s inevitable.

Maryland is without question one of the states most severely hurt by the partial federal government shutdown precipitated by President Trump’s insistence that Congress approve $5.7 billion to build a wall along part of the Mexican border. The Bureau of Revenue Estimates reported Monday that 172,000 Marylanders have been impacted directly by the shutdown, including 90,000 federal workers and 163,000 federal contractors. Combined, that translates to $778 million in lost wages (and about $60 million in missing state and local tax revenue) every two weeks. The direct federal employees will most likely get paid their back wages when the shutdown ends, but many of the federal contractors won’t, meaning the economic damage will be permanent. Mr. Hogan has sent two letters of protest (one, along with Montana’s Democratic governor, as the shutdown loomed and another with the Democratic governor of Virginia and mayor of Washington as it dragged on), but the situation is too grave for him to leave it at that. Mr. Hogan can and should be a leading voice within his party to pressure Republican Senate leaders to move legislation to re-open the government.

The anti-immigrant politics at the heart of Mr. Trump’s demand for a wall also clash with Maryland’s interests. Though not a border state, Maryland’s economy is highly dependent on immigrants, who make up a disproportionate share of its entrepreneurs as well as its workers in the top echelons of its economy (medicine, biosciences, engineering, etc.) and its lower rungs (construction, agriculture, etc.). A 2016 report by the Department of Legislative Services found higher workforce participation and lower unemployment among the state’s immigrants than its native born population. Particularly in the Washington region, immigrants (legal and otherwise) are the prime drivers of Maryland’s growth. It’s not surprising, then, that Mr. Hogan does not traffic in anti-immigrant rhetoric and has publicly objected to some Trump administration policies, including forced family separations at the border and limits on guest worker visas. But he could do more. Touting the benefits of immigration was once a mainstream position in the Republican Party, and Mr. Hogan is ideally positioned to give voice to it again.

Maryland stands to lose more than most if Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act succeed. Not only would hundreds of thousands of Marylanders lose their health insurance but the state's hospitals would stand to lose billions in federal payments they receive under a waiver from traditional Medicare rules. Maryland has served as a national model in constraining the growth in health care costs while simultaneously improving quality through a policy experiment authorized under the ACA that was conceived by the O’Malley administration and solidified and expanded under Mr. Hogan. And at a time when rising premium costs and declining support for outreach and marketing drove down enrollment in other states, Governor Hogan and the General Assembly enacted policies that led to premium reductions and higher enrollment here. The ACA was in its conception a hybrid of Republican and Democratic ideas about health care reform (though few in the GOP would be willing to admit it), and Mr. Hogan is well positioned to make the case to a national audience that it can succeed if both parties try to make it work. (He would be better positioned to do so if he championed the next steps Maryland should take to constrain health care costs and expand access — a state-level individual mandate that allows Marylanders to use any fines they owe as a down payment on qualifying health insurance and a prescription drug price review board.)

Maryland is also particularly vulnerable to climate change, given the effects of sea level rise on its coastline. Mr. Hogan has taken steps to oppose the Trump administration’s willful ignorance on climate science (for example, penning a Washington Post oped with Virginia gov. Ralph Northam urging states to lead on reducing carbon emissions in the absence of federal action). He can do more here, too, by backing legislation to increase Maryland’s renewable energy targets.

When Governor Hogan took office four years ago, he spoke of his commitment to reflect Maryland’s “middle temperament,” and we don’t ask him to do anything different tomorrow. But in the last four years, maintaining a sober and sensible demeanor has become a radical act in the national GOP. Mr. Hogan may not set out to be a voice of opposition to President Trump, but if he stays true to himself and his constituents, he will be.

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