If you were to ask a pundit to identify the most liberal state in the nation, the answer would likely be Taxachusetts or Vermont. While these are excellent choices, I would like to argue that the People’s Republic of Maryland should receive serious consideration for this dubious honor. Here is the evidence:
1. The State legislature is more than 2-1 Democratic (nearly 3-1 in the House) and has been that way for decades.
2. There were no Republican governors for more than 30 years and the one elected in 2002 was very far from conservative. That did not prevent his defeat by an ultra-liberal Democrat in 2006.
3. The State income tax is very high and has none of the investor-friendly features recently incorporated into the federal income tax (e.g., reduced rates on dividend or capital gains income).
4. The State’s other taxes and fees are high also.
5. The State has been on a drunken spending binge (not unlike that of the federal government) during the long reign of liberal Democrats, and there is no evidence that its exorbitant expenditures on various programs dear to the hearts of liberal special interests groups has improved the quality of life for State residents—even those targeted by the profligate spending.
6. The State’s less than business-friendly atmosphere has discouraged business development and economic growth. Two examples of this phenomenon, the punitive HMO tax and the Wal-Mart tax, are discussed at some length in my book, Liberal Hearts and Conservative Brains (see http://home.comcast.net/~ronlipsman).
7. It has been 20 years since Maryland voted Republican in a presidential election.
8. State officials have laid out the welcome mat for illegal aliens, setting up day laborer centers, issuing drivers licenses, providing generous welfare benefits, accommodating language inadequacies and offering in-state tuition.
9. The abortion rates in Maryland rank in the top ten in the nation, and in the top five depending exactly on how they are measured.
10. The new Democratic governor has proposed a sweeping series of tax increases and new spending programs that absolutely reek of “redistribution of wealth.”
Well, Maryland might or might not be the most liberal state in the nation, but it is certainly in the top five. Actually, the liberal hegemony that it enjoys is a consequence of a remarkable concentration of power. This is best illustrated by the gubernatorial election of 1994. A very liberal Democrat was pitted against a female Republican, who was actually conservative. Of the State’s 24 counties, she won 21 of them—but narrowly lost the election. There is so much power and population concentrated in Baltimore city and the two suburban DC counties that the three together outweighed the remainder of the State. This urban/suburban vs. suburban/rural dichotomy reflects the situation in the nation as a whole as was clearly represented in the dramatic, color-coded maps of the Bush-Kerry vote on a county-wide basis. In land mass the country is overwhelmingly conservative, whereas in population we are almost evenly divided. But not in Maryland since 1994. The few blue counties have far more people than the more numerous but declining number of red ones. Many are predicting that the country will experience a similar trend—the election of 2006 is cited as proof and 2008 is expected to ratify it. We’ll see.
But if it turns out to be true, then as they experienced in the 1930s and 1960s, the people of the United States are about to witness a frantic leap to the left. Our “modern welfare state” will lurch even further toward collectivism—a polite euphemism for socialism—wherein the people are hypnotized to look to the government (federal and state, and local too at times) to solve all their problems, real and imagined. The notions of a laissez faire free market economy, limited government, low taxes, respect for the traditional culture, and need for a strong national defense, all will be shunted aside in a whirlwind expansion of the nanny state. Yes the country does have many serious problems: it is under attack by a virulent form of Islam; it has constructed unsustainable entitlement programs to which it is addicted and refuses to face the fact that they are Ponzi schemes headed along the tracks toward a brick wall; and there is too much moral rot (rampant pornography, encouragement of teen promiscuity, partial birth abortion and assisted suicide, denigration of the traditional family). Should the liberals regain a firm hand on the reigns of power, they will fix these problems by instituting recycled versions of the same policies that caused the problems in the first place. Equally bad, they will set the wheels of government in motion to fix problems that don’t even exist: the uninsured health care crisis, global warming, lack of diversity and corporate greed. As with the original “crises,” their collectivist and heavy handed government schemes will create real problems that they will urge we fix with yet more government intervention.
Those of us who believe in individual liberty, limited government and free markets will find the going mighty unpleasant should the collectivist, big government, social justice crowd take control of the farm again. It will be particularly hard on those of us trying to keep our heads above water in the People’s Republic of Maryland.