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Md. Chamber of Commerce, the latest unlikely foe of an erratic congressman | COMMENTARY

In 2016, then President-elect Donald Trump, Rep. Andy Harris (center, top) shared a suite box on the Navy side during the second quarter of the Army-Navy football game in Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)
In 2016, then President-elect Donald Trump, Rep. Andy Harris (center, top) shared a suite box on the Navy side during the second quarter of the Army-Navy football game in Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun) (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

The twitterverse, or at least that subset of it that follows Maryland politics, was undoubtedly surprised by this week’s posting by U.S. Rep. Andy Harris accusing the Maryland Chamber of Commerce of being tools of the political left. The lone Republican in the state’s congressional delegation was upset by the prospect of not being invited to next week’s annual Chamber confab with the delegation and he mustered his most Donald Trump-like response, which is to say half chest-thumping anger and half dubious conspiracy theory with a dash of paranoia.

“Big business is not the friend of everyday Americans, but is aligned with the liberal majority now. The @mdchamber didn’t invite the only Republican in the delegation to their federal congressional roundup. Pretty interesting, huh?” Mr. Harris tweeted Tuesday morning.

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Now, had Mr. Harris inquired about why he thought he had received no invitation to “Congressional Roundup 2021,” he might have found out — as we did within a matter of minutes by asking around — that there had been an apparent mix-up and that he certainly was invited to the Sept. 22nd event, which, like last year’s meeting he attended, will be conducted virtually. And why would he not be invited? This is not a clandestine meeting of the Skull and Bones. Delegation members are, one by one, given time to comment on pending legislation in Congress that might be of interest to the Chamber’s 5,500 members. Last year’s event drew about 150 people. We’re guessing there was some yawning and boredom involved.

But no, the congressman preferred to jump to his bizarre conclusion that the Maryland Chamber of Commerce had gone full AOC or however the right wing is describing left-of-center politics these days. Frankly, that’s the most worrisome aspect of the tweet. Describing the Chamber as a bunch of lefties makes no sense. Just take a look at the organization’s website. It’s advocating the 117th Congress for tax relief, defense spending, apprenticeship programs and infrastructure. Members range from big companies to tiny mom-and-pop stores and even self-employed professionals. Gosh, how communist.

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As one expects on Twitter, the posting drew some sharp rebukes ranging from those who felt obligated to point out that it’s Mr. Harris with the affection for the affluent (more than 80% of his campaign contributors in the last cycle were either rich individuals or special interest PACs) and that perhaps the Chamber members “were afraid you would bring your gun.” That’s a reference to how the congressman set off a metal detector while carrying a gun near the House chamber back in January. And, we might add, a pretty good comeback.

We strongly suspect, however, that Mr. Harris was perfectly happy to pick this fight no matter how nonsensical because it’s exactly the kind of fight that Mr. Trump would pick. Readers may recall that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue rightly condemned Mr. Trump last January for his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Business leaders are practical people. Democrats, Republicans or whomever is elected, what they generally seek is a working relationship to further the interests of the business community. This is not new. But acting like their willingness to adapt to the outcome of a free and fair election is a personal affront to the supreme leader or the local GOP congressman? That does mark a substantial change in behavior, and it continues to be a disturbing one.

It’s apparent that Maryland’s 1st District congressman has gone all-in with the Trump wing, if it even can be described as a “wing” at this point, given how the cult has consumed the Grand Old Party. Aping the former president’s tweeting habits (back when he was allowed on the social media platform) is just par for the course. Sadly, it may even prove effective given how popular Mr. Trump has been in the district, winning outposts like Worcester and Caroline counties by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in a 2020 election that Joe Biden won statewide by a 2-to-1 margin.

Will business leaders in the district stand up and point out this pattern of ridiculous behavior? Probably not. It’s just not in their nature to be political. And that’s probably another reason why Mr. Harris finds them a convenient target.

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Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.

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