Eagle Archive: At McDaniel, authors' lecture revels in history of Maryland politics

The presidential politics of this election year is a fitting context for a recent book talk at McDaniel College on the arcane, distinctive and uniquely byzantine political history of Maryland

"Maryland Politics and Government: Democratic Dominance," written by John Willis and Herbert Smith is a 432-page look at Maryland's political identity. The book was released this past January, part of the Politics and Governments of the American States series by the University of Nebraska Press.


"It's truly a labor of love," said Smith, who has been a professor of political science and international studies at McDaniel College since 1973.

Willis is the director of the government and public policy program at the University of Baltimore. He served as Maryland's secretary of state from 1995 to 2003 and is also the author of another book, "Presidential Elections in Maryland."

"Maryland Politics and Government: Democratic Dominance" notes that our fair state is tucked between Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and as a result, "Maryland has rarely received wide national recognition."

"Maryland in all candor, is neglected, overlooked, and sometimes, in the words of President George W. Bush, completely misunderestimated," Smith said at the Sept. 17 lecture..

Yet, he added, "Maryland has saved the Republic not once but twice ... once far from the borders of the Free State and once in its very heart, Baltimore."

In the book, Smith and Willis explain the history in the context and perspective of the state's demographic diversity, history as an original English colony, geographic extremes and outright behavioral peccadilloes.

They also delve into the history and origins of the dominance of the Democratic party — a phenomenon they trace to just after the Civil War — and one that continues 150 years later.

The book covers such topics as the Maryland political identity and history, political parties, interest groups and corruption, the state's odd historic constitution, the three branches of government, the politics of high taxes, spending and big government. For more information on the book, go to the University of Nebraska website,

Whether Maryland gets its just due or not, politics is always a great topic, particularly in an election year. The recent lecture is part of a series that McDaniel is hosting to make note presidential politics.

The next is coming up this week — on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m., the college will host "Dialogue on Presidential Elections," moderated by McDaniel College President Roger Casey; state Del. Sandy Rosenberg, a Democrat from Baltimore; and David Craig, a Republican and Harford County Executive.

The three will discuss the 2012 Presidential Election. The event is free, and will be held in McDaniel's Decker Center Forum on campus, 2 College Hill, Westminster. As an added treat, the Rice Gallery in Peterson Hall, will be open until 8 p.m. so people with a political passion can view the ongoing exhibit, "Dialogue on Presidential Election: New Work by John James Anderson."

When is not thoroughly absorbed in history books on Maryland politics, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at