Larry Hogan: A Governor for Maryland’s “Middle Temperament”
By Mark Uncapher
Commentators as diverse as The Washington Post editorial page and Democratic Senate President Mike Miller have attributed Governor Larry Hogan’s success to his embrace of Maryland’s “middle temperament.”
The Post’s endorsement recalled the governor’s inaugural address promise to avoid partisanship in favor of what he described as Maryland’s “middle temperament.” The Post endorsement editorial concluded that: “To his immense credit, Mr. Hogan, a Republican in a state where Democrats enjoy a 2 to 1 advantage, has largely fulfilled that pledge, rejecting what he called ‘the extremes of either political party’ and taking a pragmatic, centrist approach to leadership that has been a tonic in a venomous era.[i]
This summer, while the campaign was well under way, Democratic Senate President Miller drew the same conclusion. After the paper noted that Miller “sounded more enthusiastic about Hogan than Jealous,” the Post quoted his observation that the Governor “understands that Maryland is a state of the middle temperament.”[ii]
The phrase about Maryland’s “middle temperament” dates to 1634. Father Andrew White, in observing the region that was to become the state of Maryland, wrote that it enjoyed "a middle temperament between the two [New England and Virginia], and enjoys the advantages, and escapes the evils, of each.”[iii]
Far more relevant, historian Robert Brugger has translated that observation into the unifying theme in his masterful book, "Maryland: A Middle Temperament, 1634-1980." To describe three and a half centuries of Maryland history, he sees the state "as a middle way, between extremes, where the human spirit thrives" and argues that the approach works surprisingly well, given Maryland's great geographical, social, and economic diversity.[iv]
Considering Governor Hogan’s widely acknowledged success at striking a “middle temperament” tone, the precise words of his 2015 inaugural address bear repeating:
Today is not the beginning of an era of divided government.
Today is the beginning of a new spirit of bipartisan cooperation in Annapolis.
There is so much that unites us: a love of our state, a commitment to fairness, and a desire to be economically strong and successful.
And to those who would divide us or drive us to the extremes of either political party, I remind you that Maryland has been called "a state of middle temperament.” Our politics need that middle temperament as well. The politics that have divided our nation need not divide our state.[v]
To be sure, the balance that the governor strikes can frustrate political partisans. Partisans of both parties are uneasy over the “half loaf” that the ‘give and take’ of political compromise produces.
Nevertheless, Governor Hogan’s deep appreciation of Maryland’s ‘middle temperament’ helps explain his success in office and why he is the overwhelming favorite to be headed for another term in office.
[iii] Father Andrew White, S.J., "An Account of the Colony of the Lord Baron of Baltamore (sic), in Maryland, near Virginia: in which the character, quality and state of the Country, and its numerous advantages and sources of wealth are set forth," (1633), in Clayton Colman Hall (ed.), Narratives of Early Maryland, 1633-1684 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910), 6-7.
[iv] Maryland: A Middle Temperament, 1634-1980. By ROBERT J. BRUGGER. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press in association with the Maryland Historical Society, 1988