Clayton Mitchell: The Maryland Paradox?

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By Clayton A. Mitchell, Sr.

Earlier this month, the political waves of the conservative tsunami crashed upon Maryland’s shores. Notwithstanding, and with the exception of the 1st Congressional District, the “red” tide did little damage to the State’s interior. Right-wing broadcast commentators hypothesize that Maryland’s Democrat Party dominated the statewide election because the State is awash with comatose government workers and dependent minorities who are inflicted with a blind allegiance to the left and a penchant for big government programs. Those who come readily to that kind of absurd political reductionism fail to acknowledge the general citizenry’s passionate closely-held values and discount the unique needs of Maryland’s sophisticated economy.

As Governor O’Malley adroitly predicted last year (in an interview on WTOP radio), because of the National Security Agency’s presence in this State, "Maryland has the potential to become the 'Silicon Valley' of cyber security." The burgeoning biotechnology industry has its primary locus in Maryland and has planted deep roots at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore City and at the National Institute of Health in Montgomery County. Mr. O’Malley’s assertions have merit. However, these and other twenty-first century industries may only flourish in an environment where there exists a well-educated local workforce.

For four years Governor O’Malley, with equanimity, has held steadfast to the proposition that Maryland’s economic survival is a function of the proliferation of public education; and even in the face of the Great Recession’s challenges, Maryland must continue to make the necessary long-term investments in developing its future high-tech workforce. Given the choice to balance the State budget in the near term by making deep cuts to education programs or to fully fund public investments to make education affordable and accessible to a broader base of Marylanders, the voters in overwhelming numbers affirmed Governor O’Malley’s vision for Maryland.

The political right, seemingly unaware of local high-tech workforce market trends, proposed to cut the State’s education budget by shoving costs down to the cash-strapped local jurisdictions and by once again raising college tuition at Maryland’s universities. The unspoken truth is that while these measures may have temporarily brought the State’s budget to equilibrium, the local jurisdictions would ultimately be compelled to raise their own taxes and fees to fill the school funding void. Consequently, educational opportunities for Maryland’s brightest students would be forever lost. Such short-sighted actions are folly.

Maryland voters, however, were not beguiled by the hypnotic platitudes of the latest national political movement; they instead listened to reason and were illuminated by debate. After weighing the evidence, the voters refused to have their local priorities cartelized with the national Tea Party interests because Maryland’s economic interests and workforce needs differ from that of most other States (particularly the agrarian Midwestern states) primarily due to its fortuitous propinquity with Washington, D.C.

The State of Maryland is not paradoxical to twenty-first century governance: it embodies it. Through various recently-implemented computerized reporting systems (i.e. “StateStat”), Governor O’Malley is in firm command of the State government’s machine and holds its constituent parts accountable. There is a reason that during the gubernatorial debates Mr. O’Malley appeared exceptionally prepared, taxonomically organized and well-versed in public affairs: it’s because he was.

For the past twenty-five years, Maryland has experimented in differing administrations in its quest for self-actualization, including one Republican administration. The Maryland Democrat Party, under Mr. O’Malley’s leadership, has essentially rendered future statewide Republican campaigns as mere didactic ventures for the foreseeable future. One message is clear: the voters demanded a competent leader with a clear vision for the State’s future to set a course through these troubling times. The 2010 gubernatorial election pronounced that Governor O’Malley has the ship of state confidently heading in the right direction.

Clayton A. Mitchell, Sr. is an attorney in Stevensville.
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