Ben Cardin, the Maryland Democrat who announced Monday that he’s seeking a third term in the Senate, can’t touch Chelsea Manning’s coming out party.
From 2010-2017, Miss Manning was imprisoned by the military after being court-martialed for releasing classified documents and other charges. In January, then-President Barack Obama commuted her sentence for crimes she had committed when she was Army Pvt. Bradley Edward Manning. After becoming a private citizen, Miss Manning underwent gender transition surgery.
On Jan. 9, Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, Miss Manning tweeted “F*** the police.” On Jan. 11, she informed the Federal Election Commission that she planned to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland. On Jan. 18, she filed paperwork with the Maryland State Board of Elections, proclaiming to run in the June 26 Democratic primary.
Who’s her chief opponent? Mr. Cardin.
Forget that, at 74, Mr. Cardin is old enough to be the 30-year-old Miss Manning’s grandpappy.
Do remember, however, that Miss Manning could easily become a political nightmare for Mr. Cardin, the Democratic Party and the state of Maryland, whose last Republican senator was Charles “Mac” Mathias, a not-so-dyed-in-the-wool Republican. No Southern conservative, Mathias was a civil rights supporter and abortion proponent.
Fast forward to 2018, when Gov. Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford are the faces of the Maryland Republican Party, and they are politically savvy enough to not hobnob with Donald Trump or anything that could remotely tie them to his brand.
Maryland Democrats, though, won’t be so lucky with their standard-bearer.
The party leaders and fundraisers cannot afford to expect Miss Manning to remake herself again to become one of those Democrats who moves to the center for expediency, as Bill Clinton did. It’s even difficult trying to ignore someone such as Chelsea Manning, who lives in the D.C. suburb of Bethesda, Maryland’s premier up-and-still-coming neighborhood of young people, millennials and hot spots.
Another thing: If the name Chelsea Manning does make it onto the June 26 ballot, Marylanders will be following the lead of their brothers and sisters on the other side of the Potomac, where another transwoman Democrat, Danica Roem, defeated one of Virginia’s most socially conservative state lawmakers in November. Miss Roem is one of the nation’s first openly transgender elected officials.
Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, said Miss Manning’s brand could be one of “unapologetic progressivism, no compromise, take no prisoners.”
How does Mr. Cardin fight back against such a candidate? With one arm tied behind his back.
He can’t play the gender card, he can’t play the age card, and he dare not play the can’t-we-all-get-along card. After all, he fights tooth-and-nail against Mr. Trump and his Republican congressional colleagues.
The only hand Mr. Cardin has outstretched is attached to his fundraising arm, and as a 10-term member of the House and respected Senate Dem, he does have considerable name recognition.
However, this time Mr. Cardin might have to stomp into unfamiliar territory to bolster his status quo supporters and generate interest with the new blue bloods who don’t mind their candidates or politicians saying “F*** the police.”
Voters who can relate to that, especially should Miss Manning adopt a take-no-prisoners position, could easily look to her as their cultural security blanket and history-maker.
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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