Paradox of Md. in National Democratic Politics on Display at Convention

Maryland Democratic Chairwoman Yvette Lewis presides over the virtual delegation breakfast Monday morning. Screen shot

Maryland’s unusual place in the national Democratic firmament was on vivid display Monday morning during the first online meeting of the state’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention.

A galaxy of democratic superstars — most with Maryland ties — spoke on the morning live stream, which was hosted by the Maryland Democratic Party.

There was Marylander Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, gushing over the Democrats’ “historic ticket” of former vice president Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris. U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, who has represented Maryland in Congress since 1981 and has been a political fixture in the state since the mid-1960s, gave a flowery introduction of his boss, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco but is Baltimore-bred and politically trained.

Three other members of Maryland’s seasoned and well-respected congressional delegation also spoke — Reps. John P. Sarbanes, Jamie B. Raskin, and Anthony G. Brown, the latter introducing U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, who, like many other speakers, offered a tribute to the late Maryland congressman Elijah E. Cummings.

Pressley, who serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, called Cummings “my forever chairman.”

Many speakers cited Maryland’s importance in national politics and the federal government. Perez, one of the very few Democratic luminaries spending the week in Milwaukee, the convention city, lamented that the Maryland delegation’s assigned hotel in Wisconsin would have put them just three blocks from the convention hall — “the woulda’s and the coulda’s we don’t want to talk about,” he said.

Pelosi, who was chair of the California Democratic Party before being elected to Congress in 1987, heaped praised on Maryland Democratic Chairwoman Yvette Lewis.

“I served as chair of the party and I know what a good party chair looks like,” Pelosi said. For the full delegation, she offered “greetings and gratitude for what you’re doing and what you’re going to do.”

But even though Maryland has a senior congressional delegation, is home to many important figures in federal government — or those seeking high-level appointments in future Democratic administrations — and is also a great source of fundraising for the national party, the reality that Maryland is a Democratic stronghold in federal elections means it is almost always ignored in presidential contests, except to ship volunteers and funding to swing states.

“We know that Maryland will be in the Biden-Harris column,” Pelosi said. “That gives us the freedom to fight in other places.”

It was meant as a compliment.

Delegation breakfasts, like the convention themselves, are generally one big pep rally for the national ticket — or a test-run for laugh lines at the opposition’s expense. And Monday was no exception.

Raskin, a constitutional scholar who has been warning for months that President Trump represents a threat to Republic, offered some of the best lines.

“It’s sort of fitting that we’re a convention in exile, because we’re a democracy in exile right now,” he said.

Raskin also made fun of Republicans’ penchant of referring to the Democratic Party as “the Democrat Party,” promising to bastardize the Republican Party’s name.

“I’m going to say that Banana Republican senator or the Banana Republican congressman just advanced a Banana Republican proposal to bankrupt our country.”

If the rhetorical red meat wasn’t enough, the breakfast featured policy discussions on health care policy (featuring Lisa Brown, executive vice president of Local 1199 SEIU and Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative), business (with Kevin Beverly, president of Social and Scientific Systems and Dipak Thakker, president and CEO of Stellar IT Solutions), and climate change (led by Baltimore City Del. Brooke E. Lierman).

“This has been such an inspirational moment,” Lewis, the state party chair, said as things were winding down. “We have been to the mountaintop this morning.”

There are three more delegation breakfasts this week. What can they do for an encore?

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