In an exclusive interview Thurdsay, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD) told ThinkProgress that while not every state will be able to move as quickly as Maryland has to embrace progressive legislation, incremental steps are possible everywhere. To achieve that, he recommends progressives use both moral and economic arguments for inclusion and diversity.
In O’Malley’s seven years as governor of Maryland, he has signed bills into law enacting civil marriage equality, repealing the state’s death penalty, preventing gun violence, creating a state DREAM Act for undocumented youths, and progressively increasing revenue to invest in education and infrastructure.
ThinkProgress spoke with O’Malley after he spoke at the Center for American Progress Action Fund in support of its new report “States at Work: Progressive State Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class.”
O’Malley noted that it is important to make the economic case for inclusion:
I think sometimes, as progressives, in our drive to do what we believe is the right thing for a host of moral reasons and cultural reasons, I think we leave out some of the stronger arguments for how an inclusive society, and an open society, and a society that welcomes and cherishes diversity — how those societies are also societies that can grow their innovation economy, that can expand middle class opportunity, and strengthen their middle class. I think we need to dial up sufficiently the economic argument that can and must be made for policies that are more open and more inclusive.
On Maryland’s successful enactment of the Civil Marriage Protection Act, he observed:
What we found worked in Maryland, that place to which we could call people of all political backgrounds and perspectives, was the conclusion that every child’s home should be protected under the law, that there is a dignity to every child’s home, and that civil marriage equality is the fair and just way for our laws to protect that dignity of every child’s home equally under the law. So that was the argument that we found made this final attempt more successful, perhaps, than other attempts had been, was our ability to stay very close to that message and call people together around that common ground we all feel in our hearts for the dignity of every child’s home.
O’Malley also highlighted the powerful economic case for immigration reform:
I think the immigration reform effort, which will hopefully succeed in Congress, will be a major major accomplishment for our country. And with the passage of immigration reform, I think you’ll see a number of benefits. I think you’ll see benefits in terms of more people living and paying the taxes that they owe, as part of an open society. I think you’ll see positive repercussions in terms of the sustainability and the trend-lines in Social Security. And I think you’ll also see an America that’s reinvigorated, certainly, when it comes to small business start-ups and innovation by that tremendous font of energy and work ethic that has arrived on these shores with every new group of new Americans.
While some states may move more slowly, he noted, it is possible to build consensus on incremental steps in every state:
Maryland might be able to accomplish some things ahead of other states, but there are always things that can be done that grow that consensus, if you will, for more positive and better actions that give our kids a better way of life. Maybe in some states you can’t go as far as passing a state level DREAM Act, but maybe there are things that you can do in terms of scholarships for people that are, say the first in the generation to be able to go to college. Maybe there are things that can’t be done on gun safety to the degree that Maryland and some other states have but certainly there are things that can be done to reduce violent crime and to reduce the carnage that happens across our country from guns and gun violence. We should realize that each of these steps is important and if any of them saves one life or changes for the better the trajectory of a single family,then it was work worth doing.
Watch the interview:
O’Malley also noted that he believes the biggest mistake progressives often make is limiting the conversation “simply to those who think and feel as we do on a given issue.” “I think it’s really really important to grow the consensus and to realize that there is always some value that can be shared with another American, on any issue,” he observed, “Starting from those points of common belief and shared values is very, I think, important to forging the consensus that allows these issues to more forward.”