The OZY Hunger Games: No Tolerance for O’Malley - OZY | A Modern Media Company

The OZY Hunger Games: No Tolerance for O’Malley

The OZY Hunger Games: No Tolerance for O’Malley

By Sean Braswell


Because obscurity is like Kryptonite to a politician.

By Sean Braswell

Remember how the Hunger Games would honor its fallen tributes? In this occasional series, OZY predicts which presidential candidates will be the next to fall — whether they know it or not.

Zero tolerance. That was the brand of policing you once pushed as mayor of Baltimore, Gov. O’Malley, as you tried to clean up one of America’s most violent cities. Zero tolerance, even if it meant mass arrests for low-level offenses like loitering, and a city that is still reeling from the policy’s consequences.  

Your current campaign for president, which sees you loitering — around 4 percent in the polls — and packing the name recognition of a 12th-century saint even as the third Democratic debate takes place tonight, is a petty offense in the broad scheme of things. You’re not hurting anyone, but your stubborn refusal to abide by the accepted laws of political gravity is not helping either. (Oh, and your campaign did not respond to our requests for comment.)

It wasn’t always so. For a long time, you were one of the Democratic party’s biggest rising stars, a problem solver with a data-driven approach to governing. Raised in the more comfortable suburban confines of Bethesda and Rockville, you’ve been a career politician, and kind of a nerd, though the type that plays — usually sleeveless — in an Irish folk-rock band. From the Baltimore City Council to the city’s mayor to two terms as Maryland’s governor, your wonky accomplishments included a real-time computer tracking system of urban ailments, from major crimes to potholes, that helped slice Baltimore’s crime rate by nearly 50 percent. 

It’s not a good sign when “The Wall Street Journal” jokingly identifies you as an “unidentified man” in a photo of you with your competitors …

And for many in the electorate who were not keen on a socialist or another Clinton, you seemed like the ideal liberal Goldilocks candidate: a handsome, well-spoken middle-aged man who would work for a higher minimum wage, better collective bargaining rights and comprehensive immigration reform. Then, the record you had painstakingly built over a quarter century of public service seemed to evaporate overnight, when the death of an unarmed Black man named Freddie Gray in police custody shone a glaring new light on your record, and the divisions and distrust that still plague your city.

The biggest problem afflicting your campaign, however, is not the hackles your name raises in Baltimore but the fact that it gets so little response anywhere else. It’s not a good sign when The Wall Street Journal jokingly identifies you as an “unidentified man” in a photo of you with your competitors — and that actually helps in your battle with obscurity. “When a candidate stands before you with 4 percent national name recognition,” you joked at one Iowa event, “there’s a fine line between delusion and imagination.”

So, is it delusion? Or are you still imagining a spot on the ticket or in a Clinton cabinet? (We’ve all seen how chummy you two have gotten in recent debates.) Whatever the case, you’re certainly no longer a threat for the presidency. Still, threat or not, in this rough-and-tumble campaign environment, it’s probably safer for everyone if we detain your candidacy now, and before future offenders — sorry, contenders — feel empowered by your poor example.

To be clear: You have the right to remain silent, Governor. You also have the right to public financing and a podium at the debates. But anything you say can, and will, be ignored in the court of public opinion.

Please rise for the Fallen, Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland.

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