Martin O’Malley, a life-long Democratic Party wonk, thinks he can be president. It must be, because enough Democratic Party wonks from the East Coast are saying so. Except that no one is donating money to his campaign, or even really paying attention to it. His poll numbers are awful, and he owes any public awareness his campaign possesses by virtue of the fact that two higher profile candidates have already dropped out.
This lack of enthusiasm must baffle O’Malley, a telegenic politician from Baltimore, Maryland. If there is a silver spoon version of a Democratic candidate, he’s it. From his early days in college, O’Malley has known nothing but success and patronage by the liberal elite, patronage he leveraged to take control of Baltimore for two terms as mayor, and then all of Maryland for two terms as governor.
Self awareness is not a strong trait of politicians, and O’Malley is likely equally deficient. But others see what he cannot. O’Malley has never held a job as an adult. Yes, he spent a couple years as a assistant state’s attorney, but that was a patronage appointment to what is essentially a political training position, particularly for a young lawyer with zero litigation experience. So he is incapable of relating to most working Americans. In fact O’Malley has no experience with working with anyone outside of the Democratic Party. That’s right…never. Baltimore and Maryland have been run by the Democratic Party for decades, despite occasional Republican governors. There is now embarrassing evidence that Baltimore was significantly worse off after his administration than before it, and that some of this decline was covered up with politically-motivated policing. As governor, O’Malley’s tenure was primarily noted for toadying to the Democratic-controlled legislature and giving magazine interviews. And unlike Baltimore, the state was too big to paper over its condition with government-controlled statistics.
Not surprisingly, this resume has not translated well in terms of national political appeal.
O’Malley is in fact the modern day Gary Hart, who had similar dismal prospects during the 1984 presidential election. This seems appropriate, because O’Malley started his political career as a campaign operative for the former Colorado senator during college. When Hart lost the nomination to former vice president Walter Mondale, O’Malley eventually found a home as a campaign operative in then-congresswoman Barbara Mikulski’s senate campaign in 1986. Mikulski won her election, and O’Malley’s reward was a slot as assistant state’s attorney for Baltimore. Two years in the state’s attorney’s office led to a gig as city councilman for a decade, and then onward as mayor.
Baltimore has been good to its native son. But has the native son been good for Baltimore? Not so much. It didn’t take recent wide scale riots after the death of an African-American in police custody to realize that Baltimore is a basket case. The city is not much better off than Detroit. In fact, it would be as worse as Detroit if it wasn’t for the fact that the city’s politicians unabashedly siphon off the state’s tax revenues to prop up the city. This embarrassing pillaging is so thorough that most of Maryland’s counties have had to impose income tax rates themselves just short of that billed by the state in order to fund government operations. O’Malley’s solution? Yep, raise taxes.
Higher taxes have had a profound effect on the Maryland economy. The sucking sound from northern Virginia siphoning off jobs and tax base from Maryland is so loud, you have to wear ear muffs if you are standing within ten miles of the Potomac River. If it wasn’t for the buffering effect of so much federal money in the form of government salaries by resident civil servants flowing into the Maryland, the state would be in serious trouble.
Still, O’Malley figures he has a shot at the Democratic nomination. Although only six of the first 38 presidents were governors, four of the last six were the chief executives of their states before taking the Oval Office. If, like Hart, he sticks it out while his rivals pull out of the race one by one, he figures his party-line liberal message will play well against front runners Clinton and Sanders, each of whom have a lot of political baggage. Because, well, they actually have experience.
President O’Malley–it has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? Well, at least the Maryland Democratic Party so believes. After all, just think what Baltimore could do with all that federal tax revenue! The possibilities, the possibilities!!
5/5/2017 – Update: O’Malley withdrew from the race on 2/1/2016 and endorsed Hillary Clinton on 6/9/16. As of this date he was a visiting professor at Boston College’s law school.