Saturday, February 6, 2016

Martin O'Malley: The Post-Mortem

Martin O'Malley was well aware of his low, single-digit poll numbers going into the Iowa caucuses, but he was convinced that Iowa Democrats would confound and contradict the pollsters and the pundits on caucus night.  They did.  O'Malley finished not in the single digits but even lower than that - in the fractional digits,  with six-tenths of a percent of the vote.
So what went wrong?  Why did the most promising Democratic presidential candidate of the 2016 election fail to get traction after eight months of a hard-fought campaign?  There are several reasons, actually.  One was that Martin O'Malley ran a substantive campaign on important issues at a time when people preferred to be entertained, as Donald Trump has proven.  At a time when O'Malley talked of helping immigrants come out of the shadows and work to become "new Americans," Trump was (and still is) talking about sending them back - and he sells his racist rhetoric with the type of Barnum-style showmanship that O'Malley would never employ to sell anything. Also, O'Malley's platform featured policy positions Bill Clinton had advocated in 1992 and Barack Obama had espoused in 2008 that have never come to fruition - high-speed rail, for example.  Or as one Iowa voter told the Huffington Post, O'Malley was offering policies that people have heard before but no longer believe will come to pass.  Never mind, of course, that Clinton was a governor of a Southern state with a weak executive branch and Obama was a first-term U.S. Senator, and that both had had little pre-presidential experience of delivering on such policies - in contrast to O'Malley, a successful two-term governor of solidly Democratic Maryland.  Another reason was that O'Malley's experience was itself a liability.  People no longer care about what candidates have done; rather, they only care about who they are.  On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is no less a professional celebrity than Donald Trump is.  Also, an accomplished career politician like Martin O'Malley didn't register with folks at a time of high anti-government sentiment.  Trump has benefited from both of those conditions.  
But the two biggest reasons remain these:  He was disrespected by the leader of Democratic National Committee and by the press, both of whom were pulling for Hillary Clinton, and the media in particular ridiculed and trivialized him on the rare occasions they paid him any attention.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz certainly used her influence to suppress his campaign, but the news media's attacks on O'Malley were merciless.  As soon as he declared his candidacy, the insufferable Michael Eric Dyson vilified him with an angry and shortsighted diatribe about his law enforcement policies in relation to blacks as mayor of Baltimore while ignoring the popular support O'Malley had in that black-majority city.  Or how about when Hillary was in trouble over Libya, and reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, surveying Democratic alternatives to Mrs. Clinton, said, "Who else is there - Martin O'Malley?", laughing at her own mention of his name.
At the few Democratic presidential debates that were scheduled, O'Malley, knowing he couldn't get equal time, settled for thirty seconds of time and couldn't even get that; moderators swatted him away like a mosquito, much to the pleasure of the pundits.  Even his music hobby was held against him; whenever O'Malley, whose tastes in music are out of the pop and rap mainstream, sang and played his guitar in public, pundits suggested he should compete on "The Voice" (it wasn't meant as a compliment). And, as noted here before, one Web site said that he was proof that white men who play guitars in public belong in hell.   I wish I had a nickel for every pundit who savaged O'Malley and for every news site or blog I stopped reading because I couldn't take their O'Malley-bashing anymore.  I could have donated money to fund his entire campaign and still have had a good deal left over.
By the way, I couldn't get any love from Democrats on Facebook. Whenever I brought up Martin O'Malley on Democratic Facebook pages, other folks would mockingly ask, "Martin who?" I kept wanting to shout out, "Martin Van Buren! Who do you think??"

I don't need to tell you again why I supported him, as I explained that in a blog entry back in September; if you haven't read it, feel free to do so by going here.  Basically, I supported O'Malley because he appealed to our better instincts and offered policies that spoke to middle-class aspirations with great sincerity.  Also, I confess, there was ethnic pride involved; I'm part Irish, and O'Malley is unapologetically Irish at heart, from his love of Yeats' poetry to his Irish rock band.  I have an Irish-American friend from Massachusetts whose father worked for John F. Kennedy and saw an Irish Catholic presidential candidate as "the Second Coming."  Even my Republican paternal Irish family was for Kennedy.  I identified with all that.  But white-ethnic solidarity isn't what it used to be.  In other words, this is not 1960. 
Be that as it may, I'm still pissed off about the way Martin O'Malley was treated in this campaign, and I am angry and repulsed at the possibility of having to choose between Hillary Clinton and the eventual Republican presidential nominee in November.  (Since Hillary, if she's the nominee, will win my state of New Jersey going away, I can - and likely will - vote for a third-party ticket or a write someone in without regret.)  Right now, pundits are explaining away O'Malley's failed campaign as the wrong candidacy at the wrong time, and bloggers and readers continue to make fun of him - and if they're Marylanders, they're bashing him for the policies he pursued as governor.  They're free to do so.  But I will say this in response: Everyone who has bashed, vilified, attacked, and denounced Martin O'Malley is guilty of slandering a decent man and a true patriot.    
And I'm not going to forget any of this.  

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