A Democratic Wave in Maryland
As reported by David Lublin here and by Sharon in MD here, Maryland Democrats have a lot more to celebrate than the victories of Martin O'Malley and Ben Cardin. Democrats made gains in both the State Senate and the House of Delegates, blowing out of the water Ehrlich's effort to get rid of the Dem's veto-proof majority (not that it would matter much with O'Malley in the Governor's Mansion). The extent of the gains will likely depend on the absentee ballots, which won't be counted until Monday. Moreover, the progressive wing of the party has a number of new champions in both houses, including about a dozen strong progressive newcomers from Montgomery County alone. And if Jean Cryor does indeed lose to Craig Rice, who ran a strong campaign that surprised many in the county political establishment, it would mark the first time in my (admittedly limited) political memory that Montgomery County has not had a single Republican elected official. Correct me if I'm worng, but I think that completes the trifecta of Maryland's largest jurisdictions, with Montgomery joining Prince George's and Baltimore City in being Republican-free zones.
One of my favorite incoming state senators told me a couple weeks ago that if both Steele and Ehrlich were defeated, we would be destroying Republican morale for a generation. There's some truth to that. But as we enjoy the fruits of victory over the next couple of years, there are a few things Democrats would do well to remember:
1. Those who govern well win. The wave election was a result of scandal and mismanagement by George W. Bush and by Republican leaders at the state level, like former Governor Taft in Ohio. Democratic leaders need to keep their noses clean and fulfill as many of their election promises as possible.
2. There are some big issues confronting Maryland. To begin with, changes in federal rules about accounting promise a huge deficit for state and county governments. At the same time, funding needs to be maintained or increased for education and school construction, crises in the health care and juvenile justice systems need to be addressed, and serious environmental problems need to be confronted.
3. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. I hope that we have a much less contentious election in four years. But Bob Ehrlich and Michael Steele will probably not just go away. In four years, we should be ready for an even stronger challenge by Republicans, even if it never materializes. That means continuing to build the base, but also expanding the base in the large swaths of the state that voted Republican.
4. We need to address the cracks in our own base, beginning with addressing the concerns of many African-Americans who have felt slighted by the party.
Lots of challenges to deal with. Four years to do it. Time to get crackin'.