I am a relative newcomer to Maryland. After living in Iowa—a political junkie’s presidential wonderland—for ten years, I moved to Maryland in 2009. Since 2010 I have lived in Accokeek in Southern Prince George’s County.
It takes some time to get acquainted with the political system in a new state. This was certainly the case with Maryland for me. I owe special thanks to PGD9Politico over at Prince George’s County D9 Politico Blog for educating me about the ins and outs of Maryland politics.
With my move to Prince George’s County, I have come to appreciate the importance of local politics. Yes, it was exciting to dabble in presidential politics in Iowa in 2007 and 2008. But, the reality is that local politics impacts our daily life much more than the drama of presidential hopefuls angling for caucus votes.
In my four years in Maryland, I have made two fundamental observations about the political system here: 1) For all practical purposes, we are a one-party state; and 2) local politics is tightly controlled by incumbent politicians and other party insiders.
Of course, neither one of these observations is particularly insightful or unique to Maryland. Most states and local jurisdictions are controlled by one party. That’s why the red-blue divide. And, incumbent politicians and party insiders always wield significant power.
Still, as I started to understand our local system better, it became clear to me that the situation in Maryland is particularly bad and detrimental to our democratic (with a lower case “d”) ideals. Not only do our elected politicians have the natural advantages of incumbency—name recognition, media visibility, and better fundraising potential. Due to the ability of incumbent politicians to form slates, they are able to compound their advantage by joining forces. Through the overwhelming power of joint advertising, such as slate-funded “sample ballots,” these incumbents are also able to determine winners in any of the lower ballot primary races they wish to influence. (Since I live in a one-party county, the general election is never competitive.)
The blatant, politically-motivated gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts is a problem better known and acknowledged in Maryland. Many of our legislative districts are completely disjointed, as they follow no logical geographic or political boundaries. It is obvious that such districts do not serve the best interests of Maryland residents.
My conclusion from all this is that we don’t have real elections in Maryland. We have allowed our incumbent politicians to build nearly impenetrable defense systems to ensure their re-election, to determine the results of all lower ballot races they wish to influence, and to draw mindboggling legislative boundaries to benefit specific incumbents and/or the Democratic party.
It is time for change. We deserve to have real elections in Maryland.