Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is doing just about what you’d expect a politician interested in exploring a presidential campaign would do. He gave an inaugural address touting his accomplishments and chastising national politicians for dysfunction and partisanship. He’s continuing to speak out on national issues, as he did in a CNN op-ed on Monday:
President Trump: Let's be honest, neither Mexico nor "Chuck and Nancy" are going to pay for the wall from sea to shining sea that you promised during your campaign.
Leader [Charles] Schumer, Speaker Pelosi: Our nation cannot have open borders. Given your past support for border security funding that included physical barriers under previous administrations, your current “outrage” seems disingenuous at best.
Democrats would promptly (and accurately) say none of them supports “open borders” and in fact have agreed to billions in border security over the years. However, Hogan isn’t in the business of defending Democrats against President Trump; he’s out to show Republicans and Republican-leaning independents he’d be a far more effective leader than Trump.
Hogan therefore blames Democrats for opposing border barriers and Trump’s side for “firing up their base with inflammatory language.” and not addressing the border when they had control of both houses.
In practice, however, he comes closer to the Democrats view because Trump’s is not grounded in reality. “Madam speaker, in some places that will mean a physical structure, and Mr. President, in some areas a wall makes zero sense,” he says. “As part of this agreement, let’s provide a permanent fix for the young immigrants in the DACA program -- let’s create a pathway to citizenship so they can live and thrive in the only home they have ever known.” You have the sense it would take two minutes for Hogan to knock out a deal with Pelosi; their differences are bridgeable. They both operate in the same factual universe.
And that -- adherence to facts -- is what makes deal-making possible. Hogan makes a pitch for ending the dysfunction in Washington. “Most Americans are frankly fed up with the dysfunction in Washington and a government that can’t seem to even keep the lights on, much less achieve real solutions to our serious problems,” he writes. “They’re also sick and tired of all the divisive and angry rhetoric on both sides of the aisle. This week, however, we have an all-too-rare opportunity for a common sense solution and a bipartisan victory -- which is what most of America desperately wants.”
Hogan’s op-ed underscores the dilemma Republicans created for themselves. Republicans will find it increasingly difficult to retain support of middle-of-the road Americans, especially women and college-educated voters, who previously identified as Republicans. These voters are put off by Trump’s lies and racism. Hogan’s criticism illustrates how radically Republicans have shifted from a party that helped the Senate pass the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill in 2013 to the party of border hysterics who demonize immigrants and make up facts to justify giving their angry white base a wall. The shift from conservatism to nativism and know-nothingism is profound.
The electoral consequences of the Republican Party’s capitulation to Trump may be far-reaching. Unless Hogan or some other non-Trump Republican topples the president in the 2020 presidential primary, you could see a block of former Mitt Romney and former George W. Bush voters feeling comfortable with a Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) or a Michael Bloomberg. That’s precisely what happened in the 2018 midterms when centrist Democratic candidates swept 40 House Republicans out of office.
There used to be plenty of Republicans who stood where Hogan does now (e.g., the old Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. John McCain). Now, Hogan-like Republicans are few and far between in Congress. Republicans face a choice: Stick with a shrinking electorate and keep chasing everyone else away -- or find someone who is fiscally disciplined, dedicated to constructive governance, inclusive and rooted in reality. Unless they choose the latter, they give Democrats a huge opening to redraw party lines in 2020.