Maryland’s 1st congressional district deserves less traitorous representation | COMMENTARY

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Peter Jensen, The Baltimore Sun
·4 min read
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Maryland’s proximity to the District of Columbia has long afforded its residents a good look at the nation’s capital. We know politics. We know policy disputes. And we have see the best and worst of leadership from either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The mob attack of the U.S. Capitol, incited by a sitting president and his facilitators in Congress, was an atrocity of historic dimension. Efforts are underway to identify and criminally prosecute the rioters, as it should be. Some are pressing plans to impeach Donald Trump, a fraught exercise for a number of reasons, but that, too, is appropriate. But far less attention has been directed to the rogues in Congress who deliberately misled the American people, including those who willfully assaulted one of the republic’s most sacred spaces, into believing that the November election was conducted fraudulently and that the Constitution gave Congress the authority to overturn the results.

It was all lies, of course. There was no widespread fraud. Vice President Mike Pence could not, on the day Congress counts electoral votes, simply stand up and decree Mr. Trump the winner. But that did not stop President Trump and his enablers from fomenting insurrection and, if not outright lighting the conflagration of violence, certainly stacking up the kindling and tossing on gallons of gasoline for good measure. Those instigators included 147 Republicans who still — incredibly — objected to the election results after the Capitol attack. The list of shame includes just one GOP lawmaker from Maryland: Rep. Andy Harris, the 63-year-old Cockeysville anesthesiologist who represents the sprawling 1st Congressional District that covers the Eastern Shore and runs west along the Pennsylvania state line all the way to Thurmont.

If honor meant anything to Mr. Harris, he would recognize his misdeeds and tender his resignation right now. Not because he is a Republican. Not because he is politically conservative. Not because he has long been a fawning toady to President Trump (district voters presumably endorsed his servile obedience to the liar-in-chief when he was reelected by a 63% to 36% margin in November). But because he blatantly rejected his oath of office and obligation to defend the Constitution in attempting to overturn the election, consistently and knowingly misrepresenting the vote and then for sanctioning, if not outright encouraging, last week’s riot that resulted in the deaths of at least five individuals including Brian Sicknick, a 42-year-old Capital Police officer. As recently as Monday morning, Mr. Harris was on WCBM radio criticizing not the rioters nor their enablers but the restrictions on Mr. Trump’s Twitter account that resulted from the president’s own role in precipitating the violent attack. Mr. Harris suggested the disciplinary action was the result of a collusion between “socialist” Democrats and big corporations.

Well, Gov. Larry Hogan is no Democrat or socialist and he was quick to see the wrongfulness of the congressman’s behavior, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that he was “extremely outraged at some of the things [Congressman Harris] did and said.” It’s too bad the Republican governor did not go one step further and call for Mr. Harris to step down. That the Maryland Democratic Party has so far been the highest profile institution to do so is not particularly helpful given how it feeds the narrative of partisan overreach. The truth is it isn’t politics as usual. It is the Big Lie, the gross distortion of truth to stir ill-informed supporters into emotional, thoughtless and ultimately violent response. It is the common tool of fascism.

That a “blue state” like Maryland has sent Mr. Harris to Congress for six straight elections is a direct result of Democratic congressional redistricting that sought to reduce Republican representation by corralling so many of the most far-right-leaning precincts into a single district. This distortion should be corrected as well when lines are redrawn post-2020 U.S. Census. The Eastern Shore has a history of electing many outstanding and thoughtful GOP House members, including Rogers Morton who later became secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior in the early 1970s and Wayne Gilchrest, the moderate Republican whom Mr. Harris and the Club for Growth defeated in the 2008 primary.

If Mr. Harris won’t leave office willingly, his deplorable actions should not go unchecked. Even before the next election in 2022, decency demands there be a penalty. Why, for example, should any hospital (including the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center in Easton, the only facility where he is currently listed as practicing) employ him given this odious behavior? Businesses, organizations and individuals who would donate to his campaign ought to be identified so that consumers can respond accordingly. Protests, like the one conducted outside his district office in Bel Air last week, are a welcome change, too. Love of country runs deep in the 1st. I know. I’ve lived there. It deserves better representation.

Peter Jensen is an editorial writer at The Sun; he can be reached at pejensen@baltsun.com.