Saturday, May 12, 2012

Energy in the Minority Party

In Federalist Paper # 70, Alexander Hamilton famously argued on behalf of “energy” being an indispensable quality of a successful chief executive:

“Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks: It is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws, to the protection of property against those irregular and high handed combinations, which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice, to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction and of anarchy.”

But energy is an important and necessary quality to have across the political system. Recently, I thought about Hamilton’s words as I contemplated some of the leaders who have emerged as new forces within Maryland’s minority party.

Nicolee Ambrose’s defeat of Audrey Scott in the National Committeewoman’s race is, it could be argued, evidence of a larger trend happening across state Republicans’ ranks. In 2010, even as establishmentarian Bob Ehrlich went down to defeat, the party picked up 47 new officeholders, primary at the local level of government.

Many of these people are new to politics. And, virtually all of them won due to their own efforts, and are therefore not beholden to the individuals who have populated the party’s ranks for decades.

In other words, they are not content to sit and wait until someone else in the party has decided that their time has come.

And, most importantly, many of the newcomers have hit the ground running, and are making their presence known through by contributing their hard work, innovation, and – yes – new energy to the party.

Let me give you four examples of GOP leaders bringing new energy to the state's minority party:

Hillary Foster Pennington:  Pennington is a commodity too often lacking in the party: A young mom with young kids who decided to make the time for politics. So, she ran for and was elected to the Baltimore County Central Committee. From there she became active in several campaigns and as a legislative staffer in Annapolis. In between all of that, this marketing professional started a new business venture – Purple Elephant Politics – and began hosting a weekly Internet radio show which is now a must listen to, or must appear on, affair for GOP politicos. When it comes to GOP politics, Pennington was nowhere and is now seemingly everywhere. Her experience is one I would like to see repeated.

Delegate Neil Parrott:  Republicans in Annapolis are outgunned when it comes to legislation. The only potential tool available to them – the power of the referendum to put questionable laws in front of voters – has not been used since 1992. Freshman Delegate Neil Parrott changed all that. Through MD Petitions, Parrott simplified the signature gathering process for petitions. Because of his efforts, and the efforts of volunteers, now one and likely two referenda items will appear on the ballot in 2012. In essence, he took a moribund process and made it a real tool with which the minority can combat the excesses of the state’s ruling Democratic establishment. In the process, he empowered all Maryland citizens to play a more active role in state government.

Delegate Mike Smigiel: Delegate Smigiel has been a member of the legislature since 2003, but it took the power of social media to acquaint me with his activities.  During the 2012 legislative session, he emerged as one of the most effective agents of pushback against Democratic efforts to increase taxes. Very often, GOP legislators in Annapolis speak with discordant voices, thereby diluting their collective message. But, I noticed that Delegate Smigel emerged as a frequently-quoted legislator. I attribute this to his regular blogging, as well as the fact that he is good at delivering cogent messages. Delegate Smigiel also assumed personal responsibility for assuring a good turnout at Monday’s planned anti-tax rally in Lawyers’ Mall. Clearly he is not a guy who stands around waiting for others to step up. This dive-in mentality is refreshing.

Dan Bongino: I blogged about Bongino before, specifically why I felt he was the best candidate to oppose Senator Ben Cardin in November. Barring some major seismic event on the state’s political landscape, I am still not convinced it is possible for any GOP candidate to win a statewide election in Maryland. What I like about Bongino, however, is he lacks the confining past experiences that have driven some political observers – this one included – towards such cynical, automatic conclusions. He decided to run because he had something to say. There is something Capraesque about that. In the process, he has emerged as one of the more exciting candidates for statewide office the party has had in a while.

I hope each of these exciting newcomers remains active. And, I hope other newcomers are inspired to join their ranks. Based on what we see coming out of Annapolis these days, it has never been more important for the state’s minority party to function. Let’s hope new energy translates into increased functionality. 

1 comment:

  1. We have needed new blood and a shot of energy for a long time in the MD GOP. We now are seeing it emerge. This bodes well for our party. We now have leaders who can reunite the disparate factions and focus on becoming the majority political party in MD. The establishment of the TEA Party was as much a rebuke to the GOP as to the Democrats. The individuals mentioned in your article are just the tip of the iceberg!