Maryland’s 1st District congressman is a Johns Hopkins University graduate and trained anesthesiologist, among the more challenging medical specialties. Given that circumstance, it’s safe to assume he took some classes with, you know, professors and stuff, in medicine, along with literature, history and perhaps even political science. Further, Dr. Andy Harris spent some time in the Maryland General Assembly, where he served three four-year terms in the state Senate. So we know he’s been exposed to ideas, to opposing viewpoints and to the legislative process long before he showed up on Capitol Hill 10 years ago.
Given that background, his apparent intelligence, his education and his life experience, the congressman’s recent choice to join 11 fellow Republicans in voting against a resolution awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the Capitol Police, the D.C. police and the Smithsonian Institution for protecting the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 can be interpreted to mean only one thing: Mr. Harris misunderstands his constituents.
That vote is more broadly emblematic of the congressman’s casual disdain for truth and his assumption that voters won’t know the difference. When the 12 members were asked why they opposed what amounted to a fairly standard resolution, they told reporters (and in some cases posted on Twitter) that they found the language too political, too agenda-driven, too much the handiwork of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
What exactly was so appalling? Two passages were cited. One referred to the attackers as a “mob of insurrectionists,” the other to the U.S. Capitol as a “temple of our American Democracy.” That the GOP members were troubled by the term “insurrectionists,” simply defies the word’s dictionary definition. As for the opposition to “temple” on the grounds that it represents an injection of religion into secular governance (or, as Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie offered, it’s a turn of phrase a “little too sacrilegious for me”) ignores every institution from the Masons to generations of architectural critics who have used the term “temple” to describe non-religious public spaces, including fraternal meeting halls, county courthouses and yes, the U.S. Capitol.
Granted, it’s entirely possible that some of these 12 opponents do not possess this book learning. The dishonorable dozen includes none other than Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, who traffics in far-right conspiracy theory and believes Guam to be a foreign country. It also includes Louis Gohmert, the Texas congressman who suggested Alaskan caribou would appreciate the warmth of an oil pipeline and once nominated as House speaker a congressman who had already lost his own reelection. This is the far-right, QAnon conspiracy slinging, wing-nut GOP caucus. And this is what Representative Harris believes Maryland’s 1st District voters want him to be. Mr. Harris does not join this group with any reluctance. He does it with gusto, having just last month donated a large chunk of his 2020 campaign funds to fact-defying Donald Trump stalwarts, including none other than Representative Greene.
It’s clear that Mr. Harris long ago recognized some tactical political advantage to thoroughly aligning himself with Mr. Trump, and he has followed that path like an obedient canine. The January attack on the Capitol is one of those now-inconvenient bits of reality that Trump loyalists wish to erase from history even as newly-released video shows, once again, the horror of that violent uprising (which, by the way, is the textbook definition of insurrection). And so even as fellow Republicans overwhelmingly endorsed honoring the police as the measure was approved 413 to 12 last Wednesday, Maryland’s 1st District physician committed political malpractice, calling more attention to what should have been a routine matter by voting against it. As Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland’s 5th Congressional District observed, such disrespect directed toward the heroes of that day is “disgusting.” An easy slam-dunk for the Democrats.
It’s also strangely anti-conservative given the political right’s long-standing support for law enforcement. There was a time when members of the GOP believed in literacy, science and maybe a modicum of truthfulness, too, but all that was tossed aside in the Trump era in favor of a personality cult. The real question is whether 1st Congressional District voters believe Mr. Harris is anything other than a poseur attempting to blend in with the MAGA faithful crowd. Like most bad actors, he’s overplaying the role. He promised to leave Congress after six terms. Voters ought to hold him to that now-abandoned pledge in 2022. His district — home to Salisbury State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Washington College, cradle of the state’s farming and seafood industries, birthplace of Frederick Douglass and Harriett Tubman — deserves far, far better.
The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.