“No, look, (Anthony Brown’s) a nice guy. ... (But) ask them ‘Name one thing that he’s done for anybody in the state of Maryland.’ ... So, you’re saying compare his record, which is a little thin, versus our record. ... I mean, right now his campaign slogan is, ‘Vote for me, I want to be the first African-American governor of Maryland.’ Which is fine and, look, there’s no one bigger on diversity than I am.
“When it was time to pick the candidate for the president of the United States when Barack Obama wanted to run, I said, look, I’m not going to judge somebody by the color of his skin, I’m going to judge on the content of their character. ... And I thought Barack Obama was the better candidate so I chaired his campaign.”
That was gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler speaking to a group of supporters on July 15 as he was secretly tape-recorded by someone who fed the comments to Washington Post reporter John Wagner, the O’Malley administration’s chief media cheerleader.
Predictably, the Post and Wagner sensationalized the story on Tuesday’s page one with a headline “Gansler accused rival of relying on his race.”
Accused? What Gansler indelicately said privately (he thought) to supporters isn’t much different than what every politician and pundit is saying.
Just listen to some of Maryland’s most astute political commentators:
• Josh Kurtz. “It’s tough to be a white male in Democratic politics these days. ... In the gubernatorial race, Anthony Brown’s handlers will package his résumé (his military experience, his Harvard education, his fluency in the issues). But Gansler, his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, has to worry most about one thing: The potential for a huge African American turnout as Brown bids to become the state’s first black governor.”
• Todd Eberly. “He [Brown] will undoubtedly lay an early claim to the significant African-American vote in the primary. African-Americans comprise roughly a third of the Maryland population and a quarter of the registered voters. ... I believe that African-American voters would be quick to rally around his candidacy.”
• Louis Peck. “He [Brown] could benefit from a field with multiple candidates, particularly with party officials saying African-Americans could account for close to 40 percent of the vote in a contested statewide Democratic primary.”
No, Anthony Brown’s bumper stickers don’t say, “Vote for the Black Guy.” He doesn’t need to any more than Hillary Clinton needs to say “vote for the first woman president.”
Instead, Brown’s pitch is that “our greatest challenge is to address the persistent gaps and disparities that exist in our communities and our economy.” The Post’s Wagner helpfully adds that Brown means “racial and other disparities.”
And if you don’t get the message, Brown adds, “We continue to see pockets of poverty and hardship in the same communities that existed back when Dr. King climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.”
And if you still don’t get the message, Brown’s top adviser, Jim Messina, says, “Just like President Obama’s race, this is going to be an historic election for the people of Maryland.” Forget that while Gansler was co-chairing Obama’s 2008 campaign in Maryland, Brown (Obama’s law school classmate) supported Hillary.
Nothing Gansler said was either untrue or racist. Not every comment about race is automatically a racist comment. So, the only things we learned from Ganslerflap is one, Gansler’s biggest liability is his mouth and two, John Wagner and the Post are backing Brown. Gosh, judging by the Post’s smear job, you’d think Gansler was a Republican!
Ten months before the election and in the midst of vacation season, Brown probably didn’t gain much from the episode. But if the Brown vs. Gansler tilt descends into an ugly mud wrestle, the big winner will be Heather Mizeur, the bystander candidate quite willing to hold both men’s jackets while they brawl. That’s how Peter Franchot became comptroller in 2006 when William Donald Schaefer and Janet Owens dragged each other down.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says we’re cowards for avoiding race discussions. So let’s use this teachable moment for a heart-to-heart about Maryland’s racial politics.
Race, already a major factor in Maryland politics, will dominate future Democratic primaries. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s disastrous 2002 all-white ticket loss determined, for all time henceforth, that such tickets must be racially balanced.
That’s why O’Malley picked Brown in 2006. Harvard, Iraq and the legislature were nice window dressings, but O’Malley picked him because he was black. If he was white, with the same résumé, he’d still be in the legislature. Gansler will select a black running mate for the same reason.
Demographics is destiny, especially in a state destined to become majority minorities. If you want a glimpse of the future, look at the battle to succeed Montgomery County state senator Rob Garagiola, who’s retiring next month.
The Democratic Central Committee was all set to choose Delegate Brian Feldman until a major problem arose: Feldman is white. People of Color, a county group dedicated to replacing white Democrats with minorities, is contesting Feldman’s appointment strictly on skin color. They’re demanding that a non-white be appointed.
Doctrinaire white liberals like Feldman and Gansler must be dismayed. They benevolently helped create today’s world of racial division, victimhood and recriminations, which is now boomeranging on them.
And not only can’t they do anything about it, they can’t even talk about it.
Blair Lee is chairman of the board of Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in the Business Gazette. His past columns are available at www.gazette.net/blairlee. His email address is email@example.com.