2016. The Presidential election. It’s around the corner. You may be dreading it or you may be excited already. Either way: you need to pay attention NOW. This is the high-leverage time to make your personal impact. When it’s down to two, you’re just voting your history. Do that then, but your one vote depending on where you live – doesn’t usually really matter all that much. Now is the time to be involved. Now is when your involvement has the most leverage.
If you are a genetic Republican, I respect, with sympathy, your genetic defect. Watch Wizard of Oz again. Even a mechanical heart is better than no heart at all.
If you are an Independent, please get out of your self-satisfied neutrality and take a stand; not participating in the selection of major party candidates is a choice, but a poor choice. It definitely allows you to distance yourself from whatever happens, but your satisfaction is self immolative. Even rocks have an opinion about who should be President. Man up (gender neutrally)!
If you are a Democrat, read on.
You may have heard that Hillary Clinton has the Democratic nomination in hand. It’s “her turn”. It’s “time for a woman”. We like the first Clinton, why not another one? She has it wrapped up.
All these are bogus reasons, and, moreover, irresponsible reasons for supporting a Presidential candidate. Gender bias is a cancer on society. We need to work hard to eliminate this bias. But curing it with electing a woman President is as likely to succeed as curing racial bias that way; how’d that work out? It’s magical thinking to anoint Hillary Clinton with powers to “advance women”. Elect Hillary as the best candidate or do not support her. Election outcomes are not symbols. It matters who gets elected.
I cannot support her now. [Note: If you support Hillary, I don’t think you are a bad person, but I cannot support her now. I will vote for Hillary Clinton over a Republican Candidate no matter who, but you’re reading this so you agree with me on that.]
I first met Hillary Clinton many years ago (1993?), early in her first term as First Lady when she was speaking as an advisor to the Lasker Foundation (I was at a Lasker advisors meeting as a guest of the the late, great Mary Lasker). I found Hillary Clinton then as cold and distant, devoid of content, “political” in the pejorative. But I thought little of it. She was a new – non-elected – First Lady.
I was a great admirer of Bill Clinton as President. He was a visionary politician with an awesome ability to forge consensus. He was action oriented and inspired those around him to action. He had Rooseveltian opportunity, which he squandered on banality. [My younger brother, a psychiatrist, told me once that “all Presidents are, and I’m using a technical term, ‘crazy’…”] I apologize, even now, for all men. [Seriously, we’re not all like Bill…]
Hillary is not Bill in her political inclinations nor skills. As a longtime (38 years and counting) pharmaceuticals innovator, I shudder when remembering her tone deaf, ignorant, and mind-bogglingly inappropriate role in nearly burning down the entire innovative pharmaceutical sector in 1993, when then-President Bill Clinton appointed his wife (…whose idea was this??) to head the swathed-in-secret Taskforce on National Healthcare Reform. She proceeded to leak her intention to impose a centralized, top-down, command-and-control, essentially nationalized healthcare system. Most of those with any real-world-experience quickly concluded this would mean the end of innovation. The nascent biotech market cratered, and Big Pharma mobilized for political war.
The TaskForce and its proposal died of its own ineptitude, and this effectively killed healthcare reform for almost two decades. This debacle was altogether un-Bill-Clintonian, and the driving leadership on this failed initiative was clear.
I have no educated critique of Senator Clinton’s service in New York, however cynically she became a New Yorker. A consistent hawk, she supported military interventions in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I did not.
As Secretary of State, her persistent hawkishness caused me to cringe, but at least she showed an ability to manage something a bit more complex than a congressional office.
But in that Secretary of State role she showed her imperial tendencies (apparent to me even in 1993) in the incredible way in which she blatantly flouted clear and universally understood rules about her email. I cannot excuse this as a “lapse”. She purposely and with great effort evaded the rules/laws of transparency and public record that every junior intern in DC knows how to follow. That for me, is the final straw, but not the only straw. [How she got away with it is a story for another grand jury one day…] I cannot trust her, even as she showed she does not trust us.
And I’m not even detailing her breezy, ethically-dubious relationship with money that seems to be a family trait, from six figure speaking fees to seven and eight figure sums “donated” to the Clinton foundation by nation-states and individuals seeking exactly what?
And ultimately, her greatest deficit is that she will, in my opinion, lose the election to the most likely Republican nominee, Jeb Bush; he’s by far the best Bush and she isn’t the best Clinton. She certainly has fervent backers, but her “negatives” are equally strong. In a general election, I fear she will lose most of the middle.
So I look elsewhere.
Bernie Sanders. Please!?! I like Bernie; I think he serves a useful role as a curmudgeon. At the sound-bite level, I agree on almost everything he says. But, seriously, on every detail of actual implementation, he has no credibility. Sadly impractical, comically unedited, seriously lacking in inclination or ability to organize anything, he’s a meme. A useful meme, but a simulacrum nonetheless. It is the height of foolishness to spend time backing Bernie Sanders. He cannot win. The only worthy purpose of backing a candidate for President is to help him/her win. Bernie cannot win.
Next. Martin O’Malley.
I’ve known Martin O’Malley personally since about 2006, when he was moving from being the two-term Mayor of Baltimore to be Maryland’s Governor (he served two terms as Governor ending in January this year).
Over two terms as Baltimore’s Mayor he was credited with revitalizing the city, with disciplined, metrics-based management style that got results. Time magazine anointed him, “..one of America’s top five big city mayors.”
As an effective and popular mayor of Baltimore, he tackled head on the rampant gang violence that was threatening the city’s very viability. Faced with what he judged was a crisis, he decided to shock the system with a zero-tolerance approach to crime that objectively brought the city back from the brink of civic anarchy. Serious crime dropped 40% while he was mayor. There are those who would twist this decade-ago approach to explain Baltimore’s problems today (..he was last mayor in 2006). I do not think things are as easy as that. While O’Malley doesn’t shy away from owning his past actions, he gets it right when assessing that present-day Baltimore’s problems are “not only about race….not only about policing” but ultimately are about “conditions of extreme and growing poverty [creating] conditions for extreme violence…Our economic and political system is upside down and backwards and it is time to turn it around.”
He came to my attention as a separated-at-birth doppleganger of the then-candidate Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (governor 2007-2015). Both embodied a new generation of leadership: schooled in practical enterprise management – Deval corporate and Martin municipal – they each saw the purpose and prospect of government as an extension of the will of he people to support each other and to increase our collective productivity and well-being. When then Governor Patrick drove through a sophisticated and effective $1B, ten-year, initiative to support one of Massachusetts’ strongest industries – Life Sciences – then-Governor O’Malley (Maryland) rushed to virtually mimic this effort. Of a mind, both governors saw nothing inconsistent between “helping industry” and “helping working people”. Working people work. In jobs. Creating jobs helps everyone. Business people know that the smartest investment is to invest in strength. Both O’Malley and Patrick respected this business principle.
As the Great Recession struck in 2008, this instinct, that “business” was, naturally, a progressive constituency, proved prescient, as both Massachusetts and Maryland co-led the nation in recovery of jobs and their economies, all while maintaining their state’s bond rating (ie,being fiscally responsible).
Martin O’Malley believes that an underlying economic and social bedrock deliverable is public education. Education Week has recognized Maryland during each year of the last five years of his two terms as having the best public schools in America. Maryland ranks #1 on AP performance for the last eight years according to the College Board. And he has worked to keep higher education in Maryland affordable, freezing tuition at the state university system for four years, while increasing state support.
He is an activist environmentalist, taking action to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and to reduce Maryland’s greenhouse emissions. Under O’Malley the state grew its renewable energy generation by 41% and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 10%.
He supported and signed Maryland’s marriage equality law and pushed through a statewide DREAM act that opened Maryland’s universities to children regardless of the immigration status of their parents.
He abolished Maryland’s death penalty.
He took on the NRA, getting enacted common-sense measures to reduce gun violence, including handgun qualification licenses, fingerprint background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a magazine capacity limit.
While the Republican Party pursues the phantasm of “voter fraud” – a paranoia looking for a factoid of evidence – O’Malley made it easier for Maryland citizens to vote, extending voting hours and enabling same-day registration.
He led Maryland’s last decade of economic success, with #1 ranking three years in a row from the US Chamber of Commerce for innovation and entrepreneurship, And according to the Pew Center on the States, Maryland ranks as one of the top three states in economic mobility. Governor O’Malley forged the consensus that raised the Maryland minimum wage to $10.10.
This is why I’m backing Martin O’Malley for President.
Try as the press may to pigeon hole him along a polarizing linear political spectrum, O’Malley will confound with his simultaneous respect for business and for workers in business. He holds strong religious beliefs but defers to more universal values (justice, fairness, dignity) as his touchstones for public policy. He can inspire with quiet rhetoric and high principles, but he is an experienced, meticulous, detail oriented, goal-directed general manager. He can come off as “corny” in an aw-shucks way, but he can dazzle with a wonkish love of management detail. Unlike the front-runner, he is not afraid to take a stand without consulting his polls. He leads and gets things done. He is honest. He’s an old-fashioned public servant, with proven track record of doing a job like the one he is seeking. Isn’t it about time we elected a President who will be the best President?
Can he win? Yes, I think he can. But moreover, I think the most important question for this election is, “Why can’t we all win for once? Why not the best?”
Joshua Boger, Ph.D.