Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan’s decision to drop out of the Maryland governor’s race leaves gays in the state with no good choices to support among the remaining candidates. That’s right. I said "no good choices." Let me explain.
I wrote a while back about Democratic front runner Martin O’Malley’s inability to give a straight answer on whether he opposed a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. That effectively made Doug Duncan the only Democrat in the race who was on record as opposing the anti-gay amendment to Maryland’s constitution. The thing is, in a state like Maryland, going on record against an anti-gay marriage amendment (not for same-sex marriage, mind you) isn’t an exceptionally courageous move. That’s why Duncan’s dropping out leaves Maryland gays with no good choices on the ballot.
When it comes to Maryland we’re talking about a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans; a state with a heavily Democratic legislature. We’re talking about a state where the legislature last year passed a couple bills granting some rights and protections to same-sex couples. We’re talking about a state where the Republican governor vetoed the bills while at the same time voicing sympathy with the needs of "mutually dependent couples."
This is the same state in which that same Republican governor felt the need months later to propose his own legislation to accomplish the same general aims of the bills he vetoed (which also contradicted his rationale for the earlier vetoes). And just recently that same Republican governor fired an appointee of his for anti-gay remarks made on a local television show. Right or wrong, that move combined with the above suggests that the governor and at least some of his staff know enough to know that he can’t come across as virulently anti-gay and stay in office in Maryland.
Does all of this add up to a state where it should require a great deal of courage for a Democratic candidate to publicly stand up against a discriminatory amendment to the state constitution; especially if that stand is completely aligned with the candidate’s positions in his earlier terms in office?
No. And a candidate who doesn’t have the courage of his alleged convictions in a climate like that described above isn’t a good choice when the time comes to cast a vote. At best, he maybe the "least bad"choice. That’s the best O’Malley — now the remaining Democratic candidate — and the state Democratic party can offer.
Maybe it will get him elected, but the trend of presenting a candidate to voters as "the lesser of two evils" with regard to the issues isn’t just a pragmatic strategy. Over time, and after negotiating across miles of political terrain, it may also result in less and less difference between the other side and "the lesser of two evils." And that makes it not merely a winning strategy, but — intentionally or not — a transformational strategy too.