Gov. Larry Hogan said this week that he comes from the "Ronald Reagan school of politics." In the view of the Maryland Democratic Party, that makes him a "dog whistle white nationalist."
Gov. Larry Hogan said this week that he comes from the "Ronald Reagan school of politics." In the view of the Maryland Democratic Party, that makes him a "dog whistle white nationalist." (Hogan photo by Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

There is no question that Gov. Larry Hogan made loaded statements and accusations in a rant earlier this week when he, among other things, accused Democrats of being on the side of violent criminals rather than keeping the citizens of Maryland safe. If you were, say, the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party and looking for something to criticize, he gave you plenty of material.

Which is why we were surprised that Maya Rockeymoore Cummings went after the one thing Governor Hogan said that could have come out of the mouth of any member of his party at any point in the last 29 years — that he ascribes to “the Ronald Reagan school of politics.” Seriously, it must be a union requirement for GOP politicians to pay homage to the Gipper.


In confrontational comments made at a pivotal moment in the General Assembly session — the day when lawmakers are rushing pass bills from one chamber to the next — the Republican governor blasted lawmakers.

But in Ms. Rockeymoore Cummings’ estimation, that makes him a “dog whistle white nationalist,” according to her own sharply worded statement in response to Mr. Hogan’s remarks. The thought-train goes like this: Mr. Hogan compared himself to Reagan. Reagan used terms like “welfare queens” and other racially charged language. Ergo, Larry Hogan is a white nationalist.

Congratulations, Ms. Rockeymoore Cummings, you are the proud author of the Alternative Fact of the Week.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “white nationalist groups espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites.”

The Anti-Defamation League describes white nationalism as a term “that originated among white supremacists as a euphemism for white supremacy” and that some supremacists have further defined it as a movement that “emphasizes defining a country or region by white racial identity and which seeks to promote the interests of whites exclusively, typically at the expense of people of other backgrounds.”

Was Governor Hogan promoting a whites-only America? No.

The Maryland Democratic Party on Tuesday argued that Gov. Larry Hogan’s claim of being a Reagan-style Republican, as he continues to position himself as a moderate alternative to President Trump in 2020, instead signaled that he is a “dog whistle white nationalist.”

But a bit of political hyperbole from a party chairwoman isn’t usually enough to win Alternative Fact of the Week honors. What really elevated this particular bit of rhetoric was the fact that there were so many more objectionable things Mr. Hogan said this week than proclaiming his fealty to the 40th president. Did he say things that were “insensitive” and “irresponsible,” as the Democratic chairwoman purported? And could his words exacerbate negative stereotypes? We’re with her there.

Mr. Hogan was irked with legislators who voted to kill a bill that would have allowed Baltimore school police officers to carry guns inside school buildings, and he ranted about lawmakers who have criticized the idea of mandatory sentencing for violent criminals. The Democrats who oppose those measures believe we need to employ a more holistic approach that addresses the root causes of crime, such as poverty and a lack of job opportunities. Two different philosophies from Republicans and Democrats. No surprise there.

What was surprising is how thin-skinned the governor seemed in his abrasive response. Calling these lawmakers “the most pro-criminal group of legislators I’ve ever seen” because they have a different view on how to fight crime was mean-spirited and insulting. Never have we heard a Democrat say they want more criminals on the streets or that they endorse more shootings, rapes and robberies.

Mr. Hogan certainly needs to be careful about his choice of language. In Maryland, crime is often associated with majority-black Baltimore and its high murder rates. What exactly was Mr. Hogan trying to say with his “pro-criminal” terminology?

Mr. Hogan also balked at a $3.8 billion, 10-year-plan to boost education spending under a proposal from the Kirwan Commission, saying he would not approve another dollar for education without “significant accountability measures attached.” Ian Haney-Lopez, who has written a book about dog whistle politics, often talks about how Republicans use vows of no tax increases or promises of tax cuts to signal that they will not easily back programs that seem to support minorities and disadvantaged groups. We should point out the Kirwan Commission proposal would focus on funding the most disadvantaged schools.

Words matter, and if the governor is the true moderate alternative to President Donald Trump as he claims, he should be more careful about his rhetoric — and mindful about the impact of his policies on racial justice.

But calling him a white supremacist is also not the right tact. There was enough to criticize about what the governor said without going down that road.

When a Washington Post reporter recently asked Mr. Hogan if he shares Trump’s nationalism, he responded by shaking his head in disapproval. He also called for the resignation of Del. Mary Ann Lisanti after it was revealed she used a racial slur to describe a Prince George’s County neighborhood and took the same stand against Ralph Northam, the governor of Virginia who dressed up in blackface in medical school.

We think that both Mr. Hogan and Ms. Rockeymoore Cummings might want to admit that hyperbole got the best of them this time.