Local Democrats heard a message of optimism from elected officials about the 2012 election at the Southern Maryland Democratic Summit Saturday in Waldorf. Governor Martin O’Malley, U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, and representatives of the state party and Obama campaign rallied the more than a hundred registered attendees with a well-received positive message.
Southern Maryland is overwhelmingly Democratic as is Maryland. But the 28,000 advantage in Southern Maryland is almost entirely in Charles County, according to Maryland Democratic Party Executive Director David Sloan. Calvert has a 523 Democratic advantage over Republicans and St. Mary’s, an 811 advantage. St. Mary’s and Calvert have been consistently electing Republicans in recent years, especially with Independent voter registration numbers on the increase.
Researcher Frederick Yang cautioned that even Democratic Maryland is not immune to counter trends. “When the country catches pneumonia Maryland can catch a cold,” was the way he described it. He said polling has shown a “frustrated, disagreeable and angry” electorate but also one that has become increasingly hopeful during 2011.
Yang said the discontent is becoming increasingly focused on the Republican Congress. “A number of the people they think they voted for in 2010 haven’t come to fruition,” he said. Yang said the polls confirm what many of the speakers talked about throughout the day: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
“If these are tough time to be in public office it is because these are tough times for the people,” Hoyer said. He added that the Democratic Party is the party of the great middle class and best poised to solve the country’s problems.
Hoyer said, “The problem is the previous administration dug us in a hole and lost eight million jobs.” Two million of those jobs have been regained in the last 20 months, he said. “We have made progress but not enough,” he noted. Hoyer added later on, “No president since Abraham Lincoln has had a tougher job.”
Hoyer said the administration’s Jobs Bill is the only solution on the table because the Republicans have offered no alternative. “Every economist says President Obama’s Jobs Bill will grow jobs,” he said.
Hoyer said the party’s core values of “commitment, opportunity and responsibility” for “the economy, education, energy and the environment” are also the core values of the middle class.
Thus, he said the goal of everyone in the room and in the party should be “rebuilding the American dream.” That can’t be done, he said, “without revitalizing the economy.” That has been the theme of his recent visits to the district, “Make It in America,” which has the two-fold message of prosperity for Americans but also returning manufacturing to America.
O’Malley pointed out that Southern Maryland is the fastest growing area in the state and challenged the attendees to get those newcomers registered. The governor noted he was preaching to the choir, but he quoted Dr. King as saying: “Sometime you need to preach to the choir or they will stop singing.”
The governor listed a litany of Democratic accomplishments, including being listed as the country’s number one education system three years in a row. He also said the number of people in the state facing foreclosure is at a 44-month low. He said that compares to the do-nothing, Tea Party governors in states such as Ohio and Texas.
O’Malley said the Democratic plan for the future includes education, a rational immigration policy, rebuilding infrastructure, investment in research and development, and “a predictable and balanced rule of law.” Several speakers, including Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller expressed support for O’Malley’s proposed gas tax hike for highway construction.
The governor noted that 40 percent of the wealth of the country is in the hands of one-percent of Americans, the greatest disparity since the Roaring Twenties. Yet, he asked, with that wealth, “Why aren’t they creating jobs?”
O’Malley concluded, “We are a great nation. We have to come back to ourselves.” He added, “We have the wind at our backs. We need to tell our story.”
The governor’s message was echoed by Obama State Organizer Jason Waskey, “We have to make sure as a party we are better at the message.” He said the Republican Party is struggling with that and the burden of the Tea Party.
Waskey said Southern Maryland’s role in 2012 was to get Obama, Cardin and Hoyer elected, prepare for 2014 local elections and also assist in the Presidential campaigns in the critical neighboring states of Virginia and Pennsylvania with phone banking and other campaigning.
Lt. Gov. Brown brought his visiting parents from New York with him. He told a personal story of how his father from Jamaica became the first member of his family to go to college and become a physician. Brown said he learned public service from his father, who treated many patients for free. Brown said he is concerned the American dream of “If I work hard I am going to have a better quality of life than my parents did,” is slipping away.
Brown said that compassion is a quality that underscores Democratic principles. He said that is alive and well in Southern Maryland. “Neighbors helping neighbors is what we are all about,” he said.
The forum at the Clarion Hotel was sponsored by the three county central committees in conjunction with the nine Democratic clubs in Southern Maryland.