Democrats miss warning signs, even in blue Maryland
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A month before the November election, one of the top political thinkers in Maryland sat down for a lunch at a funky restaurant in Hyattsville and essentially outlined how the Democrats could lose the presidential election.


They would not lose Maryland to the Republican presidential candidate — not this year, anyway — but the future was trending strongly away from Democrats.

So when GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident MORE won several Rust Belt states on the way to capturing the election, it did not surprise some Democratic strategists sitting just a few miles north of the White House and Capitol.

That a state like Maryland — widely perceived, with some historical justification, as being reliably blue — is shading in parts to red should add to the concernment of Democrats already reeling from a political Pearl Harbor on Election Day.

However, like that attack 75 years ago this Dec. 7 — where the pieces of intelligence about what was approaching were there but ignored — Democrats have ignored what the data and voices that were telling them about the gathering storm.

Thus, as Democrats begin their self-examination and flagellation over how to reshape their party, they may want to look at the hard analysis and deep think occurring by some in their party in the Old Line State.

Maryland gave Democrats a preview two years when a political novice businessman, Larry Hogan, ran as the Republican candidate for governor and defeated a Democratic nominee poised to make political history.

"The inability (of Democrats) to connect at the statewide level has had a corrosive effect on party performance at the local level," the strategist said. "It is a 30-year process of watching the political map get compressed along the Baltimore-Washington corridor."

With few exceptions, the Democratic Party in Maryland has lost its once-solid rural voters and a bulk of its blue-collar support, the statistics show. Extrapolate that through Rust Belt states and, to a lesser degree, the nation, and you see the crippling crux of the 2016 voting patterns.

In 2004, the partisan split for county government offices in Maryland's three rural jurisdictions — executives, councils and commissions — was 42 Republicans and 34 Democrats; in 2016, it stands at 62 and 17, respectively.

In 2016, the Maryland GOP controlled 12 of 16 rural sheriff's offices and 13 of 16 state's attorneys offices. Democrats are also losing their hold on municipal government offices, which once was a highly dependable and highly effective bulwark.

This corrosion is not just a one-election impact. Strategic thinkers believe it jeopardizes the Democrats' ability to sustain its "farm system" — young, energetic, effective leaders who have the potential to elevate to higher state and federal offices.

It also eliminates the opportunity to demonstrate that the party can reach across the aisle and work with Republicans on issues that have bipartisan appeal.

"In other words, when we narrow the Democratic map, we narrow the Democratic narrative," the strategist said.

He also said Democrats have forgotten how to talk to voters, truly hear their concerns, show empathy and understand their anger. "Democrats are seem as scowling schoolmarms," the strategist said. "If a position is popular, Democrats think something must be wrong with it."

That attitude stung Democrats across the country.

The November election results mean more than half the Democratic members of the U.S. House will now come from just six states. Thirty-nine of 57 U.S. House seats in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — states that tipped the election to Trump — will be held by Republicans come Jan. 4.

As The Hill reported, there are 3,141 counties in the United States; Trump won 3,084 of them while Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCruz: Wife 'pretty pissed' about leaked Cancun texts CBC would back Young for OMB if Tanden falls Hillary Clinton to co-write political thriller MORE won 57.

Another report by The Hill underscores the degree of Republican punch. Republicans will control 4,170 state legislative seats; Democrats only 3,129 seats in the nation's 98 partisan legislative chambers. For the first time ever, Democrats do not control a single legislative body in Southern or border states. Republicans control 66 of 98 partisan legislative bodies; the GOP also controls 33 of the governorships.

State legislatures matter because they draw the lines for congressional districts every 10 years. Huge Democratic losses in the 2010 midterm elections let the GOP create congressional maps in many states before the 2012 elections that helped secure their majority in the House of Representatives.

National Democrats are acknowledging the realpolitik already discovered in Maryland.

Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHoyer: House will vote on COVID-19 relief bill Friday Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears MORE, well-known as a champion for blue-collar voters, said the party must be clear in working to restore the middle class and an increase in minimum wages across the country.

"Restore the basic bargain, which was if workers contribute to the success of an enterprise, then they should share in the gains," Biden told the media shortly after the election. "We have to make sure that everyone who's worked hard and played by the rules has a real shot at getting into the middle class and staying there."

If Maryland is an example, it may almost be too late.

Squitieri is an award-winning reporter and communications veteran and an adjunct professor at American University and Washington and Jefferson College.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.