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Shank's grandstanding benefits Shank himself, but not Washington County

May 13, 2008

(Originally published May 9, 2008)

It's a tired phrase, one we're all too familiar with in Washington County politics: I'm not going to go along to get along.

The implication is that the politician is not going to sell out his principles for a mess of pottage. The reality of this "go along to get along" claptrap is that it serves as some sort of perverse justification for failure.

The latest to spout this phrase was Del. Chris Shank, who wrote on Thursday that he "absolutely and vigorously reject(s)" the idea of playing ball with the state's Democratic leadership, if he believes its policies are harmful to the state and to Washington County.

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Shank does a lovely job of presenting one side of the equation, that being his apparent conviction to do all he can to be a thorn in the Democrats' sides.

What he does not address are the consequences.

He does not mention how his noisy posturing almost killed the University System of Maryland-Hagerstown campus, got funding for a new state police barracks moved to the back burner and threatened money for the Boonsboro library. Democrats say that the above happened because they were fed up with Shank's unending attacks.

When Shank takes the floor and rails against state boondoggles, the Democrats say, "Fine, let's cut funding and let's start with Washington County."

And for what?

Shank needs to answer us this: What was the last fight he picked with state leadership and won? What "principle" has he actually been able to advance simply by making a lot of racket?

There is a serious difference between being, as Shank puts it, the "loyal opposition" and going out of one's way to upstage and humiliate the majority leadership at every turn. Shank led the charge to file a lawsuit against the state's recent special session on a technicality, and is first in line to comment to the state press about the governor's and leadership's shortcomings.

His professed concerns about the taxpayers falls flat in the face of the costs state taxpayers incurred as a result of the lawsuit (not to mention the cost to local taxpayers, who must pay for his ridiculous "economic study" of the Funkstown bridge).

Shank has no problem spending your money if he perceives it can somehow benefit his personal political career.

And that cuts to the heart of the matter. There is one resident of Washington County who significantly benefits from the loud grandstanding of Del. Chris Shank, and that would be Del. Chris Shank.

Voters listen to his firebrand rhetoric and say, "Yeah, you tell 'em" without stopping to consider that the people who are hurt by this tactic are the very people of Washington County themselves.

We send, or should send, lawmakers to Annapolis not to gratuitously rattle cages, but to cut the best deal for our people. That's not happening. Look at the record. At the time when we should be fighting for new initiatives and new projects, we are continually fighting just to preserve what we already have.

It's not a matter of selling out one's principles. Plenty of Republicans have been able to get their points across without alienating everyone on the other side of the aisle. It can be as simple as voting for something that is going to overwhelmingly pass anyway. Sometimes it can involve supporting a measure that is distasteful and politically unpopular, but necessary. But mostly, it involves the ability to know when to judiciously keep one's mouth shut.

Shank is no dummy; certainly he knows this rule as well as anyone. But until he chooses to abide by it, it will continue to cost the people of this county plenty.

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