I learned yesterday that Chelsea Manning has filed papers to run for the Senate in Maryland as a Democrat. Since I am a Democrat in Maryland myself, I have thoughts about this. A lot of thoughts. Thoughts about the senate race and about the Maryland governor’s race and how they fit together and what effect Manning could have on both of them.
If you don’t know who Chelsea Manning is, she’s a former US Army private who was convicted of espionage after she gave classified documents to Wikileaks. She was imprisoned by a court martial but her sentence was commuted by President Obama at the end of his term and she was released. She has never held elective office before. She will be entering the Democratic primary against incumbent Senator Ben Cardin, as well as several other people, whom I have never heard of before. That’s not unusual here – we usually get a few far-left primary candidates challenging our incumbents. They never make much of a dent in the primary results. However, Manning will be a different story.
Manning, essentially, is a celebrity candidate. I predict she’ll attract a large faction of adherents who will become fanatic about her candidacy. It will make the primary very contentious. And that, in my opinion, is very bad news.
You see, we have a governor’s race this year and for Democrats to win it, Democrats will need to show up. Democrats have a history of staying home during midterm elections here in Maryland, with Dem voter participation falling off by as much as 50% from presidential election years. That’s how we wound up with Republican Governor Larry Hogan wallowing around in Annapolis in the first place. The result of that has been four years of Hogan being TERRIBLE on education policy and making me madder by the day. I want Hogan defeated and I need my fellow Democrats to get to the polls to make that happen.
Why would Chelsea Manning mess that up? If she attracts a large and deeply committed cohort of supporters but she doesn’t win the primary, I’m afraid they’ll stay home and pout in November. We’ve seen that happen before and the result of people boycotting the general election is the very stable genius tweeting from the White House.
Nobody wants more of that.
The other possibility is that Manning wins the primary. Then, not only do we have to worry about Cardin adherents staying home and screwing up the governor’s race, we have to worry about losing what should be a safe Senate seat.
Chelsea Manning can’t win a general election. Let me repeat that: CHELSEA MANNING CAN’T WIN A GENERAL ELECTION.
As you recall, Chelsea Manning did time after being convicted by a military court of leaking classified information. That falls under the Espionage Act. You cannot win a general election when your opponent can legitimately call you a traitor to the United States. Moreover, all a GOP candidate has to do is ask “What foreign power is really funding Chelsea Manning’s campaign?” and suddenly every Republican in Maryland is tripping over themselves to vote against the traitorous spy who may be supported by hostile nations. She will lose and Democrats will lose a shot at taking that Senate majority.
Chelsea manning is going to be a giant headache here in Maryland and I don’t know how to deal with it. The ideal outcome is that she never raises any money and she drops out but there are probably enough people all over the country who consider her a patriot that she’ll be able to keep a campaign funded until the June primary. And if Cardin fumbles any messaging pertaining to Manning’s gender identity, he’d going to be in deep shit (and she’ll raise more money on that). This is bad politics all around. Stay tuned for the drama. Ugh.