One of the most consequential primary campaigns ongoing right now is the fight for Maryland’s gubernatorial nomination. It’s about pragmatism vs. pugilism.
Maryland Republicans have been on a winning streak for eight straight years. Now, to paraphrase 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump, have we won so much that we’ve gotten bored of winning?
Center-right maverick Gov. Larry Hogan is one of the few conservative Republicans to politically dominate a blue state. Term limited, Hogan endorsed his commerce secretary, Kelly Schulz.
She’s electable. And certain to carry on their tax-cutting/job growing policies.
Schulz is running as a Horatio Alger figure, a former single mom waitress and bartender, first in her family to graduate college, eventually elevated into the Hogan cabinet where she fought successfully to create good jobs for Marylanders.
She’s also a staunch supporter of fully funding the police and making schools more accountable to parents. What’s not to love?
Nominating Schulz would be a triumph of conservative pragmatism. Will Maryland do it?
Up for grabs. Hogan consistently demonstrated independence from Donald Trump, who returned Hogan’s disfavor by endorsing Schulz’s primary rival, state delegate Dan Cox.
Trump remains popular with some of the GOP populist base, but lost the Maryland 2020 general in a catastrophic wipeout, almost 2-1. Cox leans so extreme that he is campaigning with Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, who Politico Magazine recently headlined as “a Cult Guy … Freaking Out Both the Left and The Right.”
Nominating Cox would be the triumph of pugilism over pragmatism.
That said, about one in five GOP voters are enthused about going over the cliff, flags flying, with Cox, rather than holding out for what Hogan and Schulz did and Schulz will do: fighting tax hikes and kickstarting the Maryland economy as the best anti-inflationary countermeasure a governor can take.
Talk radio’s Dan Bongino has stated that “My entire life right now is about owning the libs.” (“Owning,” or “Pwning,” is videogame leetspeak for “infuriating, flummoxing or otherwise distressing.”)
Derek Robertson, at Politico, observes that “…in a post-Trump America, to ‘own the libs’ is less an identifiable act or set of policy goals than an ethos, a way of life, even a civic religion.”
Smells like political fanaticism to me. Yikes.
The New York Times features (full page headline) a guest essay by National Review’s Nate Hochman in its June 5 Sunday Review: “IN GOP WE TRUST: Tucker Carlson, Ron DeSantis and Christopher Rufo champion a new kind of secular conservatism that is supercharging the culture wars — and winning.”
Winning on Fox? Sure.
In Florida? You bet.
As provocateur? Bring it on.
As Maryland governor?
Give me a break!
I get the appeal of rhetorically wiping the floors with the left. A Washington Post columnist once, half in jest and whole in earnest, described me as “The Second Most Conservative Man in the World.”
I’ve pwned more than my share of progressives in my day.
That said, I know a Pyrrhic victory (one that destroys you) when I see one. And I’ll be voting for the conservative pragmatist Schulz over the thrilling pugilist, Cox.
I’ve worked in or with the Reagan White House, the George W. Bush White House, and the Trump White House. I’m an O.G. tax-rate cutting Voodoo Economist, a Cold Warrior, and a recognized Tea Party leader.
And my politics is governed by William F. Buckley’s maxim: “Support the most conservative candidate who is electable.” Per Quote.org:
“Since the early 20th century, conservatives have nominated candidates who were ideologically pure but so extreme that they offended too much of the electorate to get elected. Buckley advocated weeding these candidates out. His principle became very material in the early 21st century when the conservative fundamentalist Tea Party unseated strong conservative incumbents in primary elections in favor over more extreme conservative candidates who could not win general elections.”
According to a recent independent poll in Maryland, Schulz is leading Cox by 5%. That’s outside the margin of error but, with 41% undecided, nothing taken for granted.
Balloting commences this week. Will Marylanders elect to continue the Hogan/Schulz eight-year tax-cutting, center-right winning streak?
Or are we ready to go for the cheap thrill of nominating an incendiary aspirant whose one claim to fame is an endorsement from a presidential candidate who the Maryland voters buried, in 2020, in a historic, even epic, landslide?
Schulz’s campaign literature features how her Democratic predecessors in the Maryland statehouse raised taxes 40 times. She and Hogan? Zero tax increases.
Would the thrill of nominating an incendiary provocateur, briefly pwning the left, offset the pain of nominating an unelectable Republican, teeing up 40 new Maryland tax increases?
Without yielding an inch of my archconservatism … I pick conservative pragmatism over populist pugilism.
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply-Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $94T. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.
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