Art Callaham: Change comes to the 6th District

September 30, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

I have tried to remain politically nonpartisan in these columns. As most of you know I’m a registered Republican and consider myself to be a conservative, although, I have many friends who are Democrats and liberal in their ideological bent.

In this column I want to write about a different type of partisanship that is not orientated on a particular political party. More on ideology; this partisanship I simply label as “geographic partisanship.” In this column I’m going to be partisan about where you and I live.

Party politics and voter registration have evolved over the 30-plus years that I have lived in Washington County. When I first moved here in the late 1970s, this was Democrat territory. Unions tended to rule when it came to election endorsements; we had a rural outlook, agriculture led the way in terms of the prevalent industry, along with heavy industrial facilities at Fairchild, Mack and Pangborn to name a few.

Although I proclaimed Washington County, at the time, as a bastion for Democrats, there was something interesting about Democratic Party members’ ideology —most were conservative. After having lived for several years around the Chicago area, it was a relief to meet and talk to many Republicans and Democrats that were of the same political bent and ideology as me.

Representing Maryland’s 6th Congressional District  when I moved here was a gentleman by the name of Goodloe Byron and later his wife Beverly — both were listed in historical articles as “conservative Democrats.” You historians will recall that Beverly Byron lost the primary election in 1992 to, according to this newspaper, “liberal Democrat Tom Hattery.” That primary loss opened the door for conservative Republican Roscoe Bartlett to win the first of 10 terms in the U.S. House.

In the 1980s and the early 1990s the political winds changed in Western Maryland, at least in terms of party preference, yet arguably not in terms of ideology. This area, Western Maryland, including Frederick, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett counties remains, in my opinion, for Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated alike, a conservative area!

I’ve often commented to my friends that there are few “real Democrats” in our area, only “registered Democrats.” Believe me, after living in Cook County, Ill., I know a real Democrat when I meet one, and I’ve met very few around our town.

In my opinion, what makes a conservative? Locally, we fight over lots of things that are not liberal or conservative but, to Western Marylanders, on the national level, being a conservative is clearly marked by: Support of smaller, less or limited government; equal taxation; free markets; controlled immigration; and adherence to the Constitution, particularly the base document and its Bill of Rights. Conservatives are long on national defense and short on government entitlements. I could go on, but I believe you get my point. Most Republicans and Democrats I know here in Western Maryland will agree on most of these points.

Regardless of the results of petition drives, court rulings and referendums, the state Democratic Party is trying to turn our part of Maryland into a liberal and Democrat-controlled district. From a party perspective they will be successful.

The old Maryland 6th is gone. Carroll County, northern Frederick, Baltimore and Harford Counties (at least the parts where Republicans out-numbered Democrats) has been replaced by a slice of Montgomery County where Democrats and liberals out-number Republicans and conservatives by a two-to-one margin.

Redistricting, along party lines, is understandable. If the Republicans were in charge of redistricting, we would do the same thing. But I do care about an attempt to dilute our community’s conservative ideology by imbedding in the new 6th District a distinctly liberal area, while carving out many conservatives, both Republican and Democrat. This is being accomplished through a change in the geographical make up of our congressional district, hence my suggestion that we are experiencing a geographical partisanship change.

We will not win the redistricting war in terms of party registration. However, I believe we can, and should, win the ideology war. In the upcoming election in Maryland’s 6th, the choice is not simply a choice between parties; it is a choice between ideologies neatly broken along geographic boundaries.

Let’s send a strong message to the redistricting godfathers that they may change the party makeup of Maryland’s 6th, but they will never change our conservative nature. There’s only one conservative in the 6th District race, and I’m voting for him.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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