Debates in the Dead of Night
Few people watch these political events even when they are held on a weekday but it is hard to imagine many of the people who stayed home on Saturday night tuning in to Maryland Public Television to watch the gubernatorial debate. Even your gentle blogger for Maryland Politics Watch forgot to record it before he went out for pizza last night.
Fortunately, editors at the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun force brave yeoman reporters to cover these events so we know that Gov. Bobby Haircut (hat tip to Marc Fisher for the delicious moniker) relied on the old, reheated Republican rhetoric of "class warfare" to brush aside inconvenient, unpopular increases in college tuition and electricity rates brought to you by the Ehrlich Administration. You see, when costs rise for the middle classes, we're all in this together even though you pay the bills.
Republicans constantly expect voters to be outraged by tax increases but not by massive upping of the cost of services provided or regulated by the state. And tax increases are only tax increases when done by Democrats. Ehrlich is very proud that sales and income taxes didn't rise on his watch but property taxes as well as fees (read: taxes) on vehicle registration and sewage treatment (the ever popular "flush" tax) are up. Ehrlich may understand the difference but it all means less green in my pocket to you and me.
Meanwhile, Ehrlich doesn't mind playing a little divide-and-conquer class warfare when it suits its own purposes according to the Washington Post:
I guess we're supposed to be shocked that one of the poorest jurisdictions in the state with a high share of citizens living below the poverty line is a net recipient of funds from Annapolis. One thing I love about Baltimore Mayor (and Montgomery native) Martin O'Malley is that he is not afraid to call Ehrlich directly on his scurrilous tactics:
The most pointed exchange came in the afternoon debate over the way the two candidates view Baltimore and the significant aid that the state provides for social programs there.
"I pay for you," Ehrlich said, looking straight at O'Malley. "Without us, you are done."
Reading from a document, Ehrlich then ticked off annual state investments in Baltimore schools, transportation, social services and community colleges. "You get the drift here," Ehrlich said.
O'Malley shot back that Ehrlich was practicing "the politics of division and fear."
"I just wanted to remind you that the citizens of the City of Baltimore are also citizens of our state and that we're all in this together," O'Malley said. "Frankly, governor, the biggest philosophical difference between you and me is that I do believe that we're all in this together, and you believe this is a world of us and them."
O'Malley said much the same when I heard him speak at an Equality Montgomery event. Nice to have a politician who brings the same message to all audiences. It reminds me of what I liked about Bill Clinton in 1992: he was a politician who wanted to bring people together so we could all do better rather than divide us for political gain.