“I, Steven Howell Wilson, do solemnly swear or affirm that I will uphold and support the constitution of the United States; be faithful and bear true allegiance to the state of Maryland and uphold the Maryland constitution and laws thereof; abide by the constitution and bylaws of the Maryland Republican Party; and faithfully execute the office upon which I am about to enter with diligence to the best of my skill, abilities and judgment without partiality or prejudice.”
Those are the words I spoke in August 2019 when I joined the Republican Central Committee of Howard County. Fifteen months later, I was elected chair, and those words guided me.
Those words do not say that raising money or getting candidates elected at any cost comes first. They say that, first, last and always, it is my duty to support the rule of law. To put ethics and honesty ahead of victory. To protect a system that ensures the natural rights of every individual. No cliques. No special favors. No exceptions.
I was re-elected to the committee but lost the chairmanship in November 2022 to Beth Rettaliata Lawson. Since that time, I have observed behavior that concerns me. Within my party, I see a lack of regard for rules, at both the state and county levels. It has led to suppression of speech and the complete absence of deliberation. Dissenting opinions are dismissed. Decisions are made in private and executed in public and in silence. This recklessness is justified with the tired cant: “We’ve got so much to do. We don’t have time for distractions.”
The rule of law is not a distraction. If you do not have the rule of law, you have tyranny. At all costs, the rule of law, and thus our rights, must be protected.
My colleagues are correct, there is much to do. We have one-party rule in much of the state. We have a Democratic super-majority in the legislature, sending bills to be signed by a Democratic governor. The super-majority focuses on narrow issues that will gain it blocs of votes, disregarding the concerns of the majority, which cross party lines.
Democrat, Republican or unaffiliated, there are things we all want, and they should be the primary focus of government: Great schools — some of us never had them, those that do are losing them; sound infrastructure — ours threatens to crumble; and lower taxes. But in the mad rush to bolster causes popular with the Democratic National Committee, these concerns, along with the rule of law and the rights it protects, fall by the wayside. And who can blame the elected Democrats? It is the divisive issues, not the common causes, that keep getting them elected. And so the Republican Party in my state and my county has vowed to be “more like the Democrats” and focus on divisive national issues — to the exclusion of all else.
The only way to get the super-majority to focus on our shared concerns is to break the super-majority and restore the balance we have lost. We need a strong organization to stand up to the Democrats. Is the Republican Party that organization any longer? It began heroically, fighting slavery. Does it end with a whimper, mewling over stolen election conspiracy theories and schoolbooks they disagree with. I fear it will do just that and argue its way to irrelevance.
The Republican Party leadership is telling Republicans like me that we need to shut up and follow. But, in times like this, Republicans cannot silently follow. We must lead. So, to the Maryland GOP, I say this: Lead to the benefit of everyone or get out of the way.
Steven H. Wilson is the vice president of the Howard County Republican Club and former chair of the Howard County Republican Central Committee. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.