Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Larry Hogan's Re-Election and the American Electorate

Among the least surprising results in yesterday's election was the easy re-election of Maryland's governor Larry Hogan. Hogan is a Republican in a very Blue state, and he faced a credible opponent in NAACP president Ben Jealous, but he got 56.2% and that was closer than a lot of people expected.

I think this says something important about American politics. Voting for president seems to get people passionate about abstract issues like "Change" or "Make America Great Again" and especially about our personal visions for the nation. It often seems that what the government actually does plays little part.

Gubernatorial races seem in contrast to be much more about what people what from their governments, so they seem to me to tell us more about the sort of government people want. What people in Maryland seem to want is strong civil rights protections for minorities and gay people – Hogan repeatedly stressed his support for the state's strong civil rights laws while campaigning and in office has left the state's professional prosecutors and regulators alone to enforce them – but otherwise just a government that runs smoothly and efficiently, without raising taxes. Ben Jealous has what Matt Yglesias called "the most serious and well-considered version of a Medicare-for-all plan that I’ve seen," but this has absolutely not caught fire except among the very liberal, and even in Maryland the very liberal are a distinct minority.

You may recall that a few years ago Vermont Democrats did try to enact a Medicare for all plan but there was a rebellion over the proposed tax increases – which experts said were still not enough to really fund it – the plan was abandoned, and although Vermont went very strongly for Hillary in 2016 they also elected a Republican governor who ran mostly on his opposition to the health care plan and taxes in general.

Despite what Bernie and his allies keep saying, I see no evidence that there really is support in America for Social Democracy. What the majority even in Vermont and Maryland seems to want is as little change as possible.

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