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Maryland’s Bipartisan Success Story

Maryland’s Bipartisan Success Story

My state has shown how to achieve real prosperity in our hyperpolarized times. Here are our lessons.

By Larry Hogan, WSJ

Jan. 17, 2023 12:52 pm ET

Annapolis, Md.

The chaos around the vote for House speaker showed again how our politics have devolved into a circus in which drama on Twitter and cable news is a bigger priority than getting things done. The future of the Republican Party and our nation doesn’t have to be this way.

In 2014 I was a populist outsider businessman fed up with the career politicians in Annapolis who had raised taxes 40 times in eight years and run the state’s economy into a ditch. I was elected by the same voters who would support Donald Trump: working-class and suburban men and women who were understandably disillusioned with our political leadership. Like me, they’d had enough and were demanding change.

I leave office Wednesday having achieved what my administration set out to do eight years ago. Maryland has seen one of the greatest economic turnarounds in the U.S., thanks to our cutting taxes by nearly $4.7 billion and turning a $5.1 billion structural budget deficit into a record $5.5 billion in reserves. The coalition supporting our effort grew remarkably, with nearly 70% of every demographic—including Republicans, Democrats and independents—approving of the job we’ve done.

It is still possible to lead and bring people together in this hyperpolarized environment, and my experience in Maryland offers key lessons:

• Persuasion starts with respect. In my first inaugural address, I said Maryland’s “culture of tolerance and mutual respect must also extend to those with whom we happen to differ on politics.” At every turn, we’ve tried to maintain that same spirit. As our country has become more tribal, too many have bought into the false notion that persuading voters on the other side is a waste of time. Our politicians have regrettably substituted demonization for honest debate.

• Common-sense values still unite. While the media and politicians pander to ideological activists, most Americans share common-sense values. They don’t want to defund the police or spend our nation into oblivion. They want safe streets, a strong economy and peace through strength.

• Authenticity transcends party and ideology. Marylanders often tell me: “I don’t agree with you on every issue, but I appreciate that you always say exactly what you think.” Voters don’t know who to trust. They’re sick of phony politicians who pretend to be something they aren’t. But Americans won’t punish you for being human. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, I didn’t hide my vulnerabilities and I was blessed that Marylanders of all stripes rallied behind me throughout that battle.

• Fight to win, not for show. Democrats controlled a veto-proof majority in both legislative chambers during my tenure. They had the votes to block our entire agenda, but we still delivered on our promises because we chose our battles wisely, took stands on the issues that truly mattered to voters, and appealed directly to Marylanders for support. That wouldn’t have happened if we were distracted by feckless fights on every issue. Fighting for the sake of fighting only creates chaos and division.

As I leave office, I’ve never been more concerned that our divisions are weakening America. But I’ve never been more confident in our capacity to overcome them. My experience in Maryland proves that there is more that unites us than divides us. But toxic performative politics won’t restore America. Only real leadership with a record of results will do that.

Mr. Hogan, a Republican, is governor of Maryland.

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