Trumpism Alive and Well Among Maryland GOPers— MAGAland’s Dan Cox Wins 2022 Gubernatorial Nomination July 25, 2022
Yes, authoritarian/demagogue Donald, despite his horrific January 6,2021 attempted coup, has not been sitting in the Oval Office since Democrat Joe Biden was sworn in on January 20, 2021.However, let’s not kid ourselves. Despite some prominent GOPers condemning him, wannabe dictator Donald remains THE dominant GOPer and has millions of fanatical “Red” MAGA supporters throughout the country. Much of the GOP has become a cult of personality ready to back anyone or anything Donald endorses. In both Pennsylvania and Illinois, Trump-endorsed gubernatorial extremist candidates Doug Mastriano and Darren Bailey respectively have won GOP primaries for governor. Add Maryland to that list. On July 19, 2022 in the Old Line’s State GOP primary, Trump-backed State Delegate Dan Cox, in a major upset, defeated moderate GOP Governor Larry Hogan’s pick to replace him in 2023, Kelly M. Schulz. Hogan was term limited. Schulz was a two- time cabinet secretary and Hogan’s political protegee (baltimoresun.com, Gaskill, H., 7/20/22, americanindependent.com, Singer, 7/20/22). With 80% of the vote reported, Cox clobbered Schulz by 16 points, 56%-40% (nytimes.com, 7/19-7/20/2022. Let’s look at Cox’s background, what he stands for, and the probable political consequences of his primary victory.
Washington, D. C. native GOPer Dan Cox (47) grew up on a farm near Taneytown in Carroll County, MD. His father was a minister (fredericknewspost.com, Gaines, D., 10/06/16). Cox earned a 2002 B.S.degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland University College and a law degree in 2006 from Regent University. Regent is a private Christian university that was founded in 1977 by far-right evangelist and former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson. MD GOP gubernatorial nominee Cox has been politically active since 1980 when he campaigned with his parents in GOPer Ronald Reagan’s first successful presidential campaign. In 1996, Cox worked for extremist Alan Keyes’ unsuccessful presidential campaign against Bob Dole. Cox was an aide to former MD GOP Cong. Roscoe Bartlett (washingtonpost.com, Nirappil & Turque, 4/16/16). In 2016, Cox was the GOP nominee for MD’s 8th Congressional District (CD). He was described as the most conservative candidate in that GOP primary. He campaigned for a regressive 10% flat tax for incomes over $36,000 and for eliminating payroll taxes. He was for strengthening gun ownership rights and wanted to abolish the IRS. He stood for reducing funding and programs to the Departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development (Gaines, fredericknewspost.com, 10/06/16). Cox supported Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential primaries. Cox won the GOP congressional primary with 44.4% of the vote, but was clobbered by strong Trump opponent Democrat Jamie Raskin by 26 points, 60%-34% (Cohen & Cook 2022 Political Almanac, elections.maryland.gov/elections /2016 results). Cox went on to win election to the MD State House of Delegates where he has served from 2019 in the 4th District, located in conservative Frederick County (See ballotpedia.com).
Demagogue Donald endorsed Cox in the 2022 gubernatorial race, viewed by many pundits as a proxy fight between Trump and moderate GOPer Hogan (cnn.com, 7/19/22, Bradner & Shelton). Cox, like Trump, is an “election denier.” Cox has similarly stoked fears about “election fraud.” In 12/2020 on Facebook, Cox stated that Trump should “seize voting machines.” Cox chartered three buses to Donald’s 1/06/2021 election rally in D.C. During the 1/06/2021 Trump-incited insurrection, Cox tweeted, “Pence is a traitor.” Cox threatened a lawsuit over mail-in ballots (cnn.com, Bradner & Shelton, 7/19/22). Mail-in ballots, remember, are mainly cast by Democrats, while GOPers overwhelmingly vote at the polls on Election Day.
In 2021, Cox protested abortion in the Maryland State House. He co-sponsored several bills that would prohibit abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected (mgaleg.maryland.gov). Believing that Cox’s extremist positions would turn off moderates in the general election, the Democratic Governor’s Association spent more than $1 million on television ads highlighting Cox’s anti-choice and anti-gun control positions and Trump’s endorsement of him. One ad aptly called Cox “too close to Trump, too conservative for Maryland (cnn.com, Bradner et al, 7/19/22).”
And there is more. Cox unsuccessfully led an attempt to impeach GOP Gov. Hogan over his COVID-19 policies which included a stay-at-home directive and a statewide mask mandate. Cox claimed to have survived COVID-19 twice by taking hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, drugs not approved by the FDA for treating COVID-19 (See Singer, americanindependent.com, fredericknewspost.com, Bohnel, 4/02/20). He wants to repeal Obamacare and is an anti-immigration hardliner (Nirappil & Turque, 4/16/16, washingtonpost.com, delmarvanow.com, Velazquez, R., 7/27/21). In 10/2020, Cox posted on his Twitter account hashtags related to the QAnon conspiracy theory (theseventhstate.com, 10/24/20). In 4/2022, Cox attended an event in Gettysburg, PA organized by QAnon conspiracy theorists. That event featured images of conspiracy theories related to the 9/11 attacks, JFK’s assassination, and vaccines (Seidman, 4/27/22, inquirer.com).
MD, historically, was a “border state.” It was badly torn by Northern and Southern factions during the Civil War but did not leave the Union. Unlike another “border state,” now solid “Red” KY, MD has become one of the nation’s “Bluest” states. MD Democrats outnumber GOPers 2:1. MD has not backed a GOPer for president since 1988 and Biden clobbered Trump here by 33 points, 65%-32% (Cohen & Cook 2022). MD has a 7-1 Democratic congressional delegation and “Team Blue” controls both state legislative chambers. GOP Gov. Hogan’s winning two consecutive terms in ultra-“Blue” MD by wide margins and his strong popularity is an impressive political accomplishment (See Cohen & Cook 2022). After Cox won his upset nomination over Hogan-endorsed Schulz, Gov. Hogan stated he would not back Cox in the 11/2022 election (baltimoresun.com, Gaskill, 7/20/22).
Currently, the GOP holds 28 gubernatorial seats to the Democrats’ 22 (governors.rutgers.edu). Winning governorships is not just a matter of partisan bragging rights. In these days of GOP-led congressional gridlock, governors often take the lead in enacting either progressive or reactionary agendas. Witness CA Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strong progressive platform v. FL’s Ron DeSantis’s extremist GOP one. Governors are also the “farm team” from which both parties recruit candidates for national office, including the House, Senate, and also presidential and vice-presidential nominees. Newsom and DeSantis are being repeatedly discussed by pundits as possible presidential candidates.
Once Trump-backed far-right Cox won the MD GOP primary, pundits immediately changed their ratings for this race. Nathaniel Rakich, a senior elections analyst for the FiveThirtyEight website noted, “The GOP might have had a shot with Kelly (Schulz), but now #MDgov should be a ‘slam dunk’ Democratic gain (americanindependent.com, Singer, E., 7/20/22).” Jessica Taylor, a political analyst with the non-partisan Cook Political Report, stated that Cox’s win solidifies the general election as a likely Democratic win. She added, “It didn’t have to be that way. The race could have been competitive if Schulz had won. Trump putting retribution over sound political strategy cost Republicans the race.” Taylor’s Cook Political Report now rates the MD governor’s race as a “solid Democratic” contest (Singer, 7/20/22).” Besides GOP Gov. Hogan refusing to back Cox and saying he is unfit and unable to win in 11/2022, other GOPers feel the same way. Doug Mayer, a top aide to Schulz’s campaign called Cox’s win “ritualized mass suicide” by MD Republicans. Mayer declared, “The only thing that was missing was Jim Jones and a cup of Kool-Aid ( Singer, americanindependent.com, 7/20/22, cnn.com, Watson & Cole, 7/24/22).” MD and MA where moderate GOP Gov. Charlie Baker is not running are now considered top “Team Blue” pickups. Gov. Hogan stated that he was fighting for the “heart and soul” of his party (cnn.com, Watson et al, 7/24/22). Hogan is a fiscal conservative but anti-Trumper (Cohen & Cook 2022). He is not afraid of criticizing that demagogue. He has argued that the only way for GOPers to win in solid “Blue” states is to adopt an anti-Trump stance but stick to moderate/conservative economic policies and stay away from anti-choice and similar “red meat” Tea Party social issues.
Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA) director Noam Lee said it all, “We can’t let Dan Cox turn Maryland into MAGAland.” His DGA will keep hammering Cox and his dangerous agenda to defeat him in 11/2022 (nbcnews.com, Gomez, H., 7/19/22). And how can Democrats and moderates keep MD and other states from turning into MAGAland? Just laughing at Cox and similar candidates and pointing to armchair analysis by pundits means nothing. The only way to defeat Cox and his ilk is to vote in droves plus in 11/2022 for their Democratic opponents. In MD, that means Democrat Wes Moore. Moore, an author, television host, and non-profit executive won a close primary against former Democratic National Chair Tom Perez. Should Moore win, he will be MD’s first African American Governor (See nytimes.com, Epstein, 7/22/22). Voting is EVERYTHING. Rejecting Trump’s MAGA crowd is crucial. Our democracy depends upon it.