I realized this in 1995, when he called me – then the newly-minted Press Secretary to Congressman Bob Ehrlich – and gently scolded me for not including him on my press list for his impending “newspaper,” Maryland Citizen.
Shortly thereafter, he announced the birth of Maryland Citizen via a press release and interviews, though I never saw a single issue.
A year later, he launched a bid for the Third Congressional District seat held by then-Congressman Ben Cardin. The man McDonough dubbed “Tax and Spend Ben” creamed him, 67 – 33 percent.
In 2002, he managed to win election to a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates representing Baltimore and Harford counties.
There he seems to have found his niche.
McDonough has no substance as a policymaker, legislator, or opinion-leader, but like many low grade talk radio hosts, he has a need and a knack for self-promotion. He serves this need by locating the sweet spot on issues sure to appeal to the political fringe.
Among the go-nowhere causes which he has championed: support for so-called “English First” legislation, opposition to a resolution calling upon
Maryland to apologize for slavery, and a
keep an alleged exodus of Washington, D. C. rats from entering Maryland.
While none of his efforts achieved any real results, he usually wound up with his name in the paper – his real objective all along.
When not in the legislature, this bewigged demagogue stirs the pot by waging phantom campaigns for higher offices and hosting a program on WCBM.
It was in this latter capacity that he generated his latest controversy.
McDonough issued a press release – the headline: "Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays” – announcing plans to hold a news conference on the subject the very next day on WCBM.
“McDonough said his statement was prompted by several recent problems, including a St. Patrick's Day disturbance and a recent incident in which he and his wife witnessed a fight involving about 100 youths at Pratt and Calvert streets.”
For the record, I have lived in Baltimore City since 2004, and have never witnessed any such gang of roaming and rampaging black youths, much less felt threatened by one.
But reality wasn’t the point of McDonough’s stunt. Publicity was.
In addition to significant local broadcast and print news coverage, McDonough’s rant got him a mention on Huffington Post, and a link to the Sun story turned up on The Drudge Report.
So, judging by the attention McDonough’s race-baiting rant generated, it was an apparent success. But, for Republicans, McDonough’s actions may have unintended consequences he either did not understand or simply did not care about.
One of McDonough’s longtime signature issues will help drive
A measure to overturn the law passed in 2011 allowing illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at state community colleges will be on the ballot.
As I blogged previously, I oppose in-state tuition for illegal immigrants for several reasons.
First, it asks state taxpayers to pay for another entitlement as they choke down a new round of tax increases even as the state’s economic recovery sputters. Second, it sets the stage for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants at every
public college and university, the original intention of the bill’s supporters.
Third, by handing out benefits reserved
for citizens, it undermines traditional notions of citizenship.
I’m definitely not of the “round them up and deport them” mindset. In fact, I’d like to see the federal government establish a clear path which enables non-citizens already here to earn citizenship and become taxpaying citizens. But the federal government needs to act definitively before politicians start using taxpayer resources to build goodwill with an increasingly important voting bloc.
Interestingly, while McDonough has long positioned himself as the premier anti-immigrant agitator in the legislature, other legislators – primarily Delegate Neil Parrott – nudged him aside as they worked to put the in-state tuition for illegal immigrants law on the ballot. In essence, they recognized him for what he was – a liability – and marginalized his role in the process.
That is, until McDonough reasserted himself.
Now, supporters of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants have, in Pat McDonough, a powerful asset: A right wing, race-baiting, demagogic delegate with a seeming vocal hatred of all people of color, including immigrants.
Supporters of the in-state tuition proposal needed a bogeyman to advance their cause, and Pat McDonough just offered himself up to them.
People who had never heard of McDonough will remember his “Black Youth Mobs” comment. And if they don’t, supporters of the law passed by the legislation can be expected to remind them of it, and of his past nativist comments on the topic of immigration.
Polls have shown black voters split over the in-state tuition ballot initiative. Putting Pat McDonough’s Archie Bunkeresque face on it – positioning him as some latter-day George Wallace – could help sway some undecided minds.
In my view, McDonough was merely foraging for relevance by applying the Howard Stern rule: Say the outrageous thing that no one else wants to say, and people will always listen.
But words have consequences, even when uttered by cranks.
State Republicans should aggressively condemn McDonough’s actions as well as his words.
But they should not do this not just because McDonough’s behavior is potentially politically damaging.
They should do it because the behavior is wrong.