Ben Cardin v. Dan Bongino: “Next contestant.”

April 27, 2012

First of all, and perhaps most importantly, this piece has nothing to do with politics per se. I’m a registered Independent with a history of voting for candidates of both party affiliations. What this column is about is how I’m deciding for whom I’ll vote in November.

In Maryland, single term incumbent Democrat Senator Ben Cardin is running for reelection against Republican Dan Bongino who has never held elective office. For the sake of discussion, I’m going to stipulate that both are good men in all respects. I’m not going to dispute a single aspect of Senator Cardin’s voting history or argue with his positions on various economic and social issues. Nor am I going to challenge Mr. Bongino with respect to his politics.

The Incumbent

The Challenger

It’s not to say that candidate positions are irrelevant. Of course not. They are important, but only relatively speaking. We can argue about this or that policy particular until, as they say, the cows come home, or vote for the candidate who sounds or looks better, for the one with whom we feel more comfortable for some reason. That’s all fine and good were it not that the problems our country is facing – economic and otherwise – are so serious that we need to demand something more of our representatives in Congress, something much more than just showing up.

There’s a question that is sometimes raised by candidates and which is particularly appropriate in difficult times. “Are you,” the challenger asks of the electorate, “better off today than you were when the incumbent was elected?” True, it’s an argument usually made by someone running for President or maybe Governor, but I believe we do ourselves a disservice by not asking it of every elected official, Representatives and Senators included.

And so I make the following recommendation for your consideration that I offer in the context of the Maryland race for U.S. Senator. We are decidedly not better off today than we were when Ben Cardin took office. We are worse off. We have made little or no actual progress in many areas of important concern, and “negative progress,” if you’ll excuse the oxymoron, toward resolving other major problems. Is this disappointing lack of progress Mr. Cardin’s doing? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t care. Can I blame him for it? Absolutely. It’s my right as his constituent, as a person who, with other Marylanders, hired him six years ago.

All I know is that Senator Cardin, while doing his job in a manner of speaking, didn’t step up. He didn’t stand on the Capitol steps and scream into the microphones that we cannot continue doing what passes as “business as usual” in Washington. I never heard him say, to paraphrase fictional news anchor Howard Beale, “I’m mad as hell and, on behalf of the people of Maryland, I’m not going to take it anymore.” I never heard him say it, or do anything about it.

Too dramatic? Maybe, but hopefully you’ll get the point. I hold every Congressman/woman and Senator, and the President of course, whatever his or her party affiliation, responsible for the performance of our government while he or she is in office. Mr. Cardin is asking us to reelect him, but offers us no compelling, no profound reason why. He’s been in office five years, four months, but to what end? Given the magnitude and complexity of the problems we need to solve, we’re way past the point when a history of routine, competent behavior is sufficient cause to keep someone in office. Mr. Cardin, thank you for your service, but your state and country needed more.

And so I say, hopefully, with unending optimism, “Next contestant.”

Unless he presents some major character flaw, I’m voting for Mr. Bongino who, if he’s listening, I fully intend to hold to the same standard six years from now.


For more on this and other related issues, be sure to visit my political blog,


10 responses to “Ben Cardin v. Dan Bongino: “Next contestant.”

  1. Fine but a circular argument. No one person can change our governmental process. Will Mr.Bongino stand up and scream for the betterment of Maryland citizens or are we just “passing the torch” to a new elected figurehead who will be powerless?

  2. Hi. Thank you for the comment. I’ve decided to answer you with a post. When you have time, please read “Ben Cardin v. Dan Bongino: What difference does it make?” that I’ve just published at


  3. Dan Bongino is in this race because he WILL stand up and shout for the betterment of Maryland citizens. He is not a lifetime politician like Cardin, and had a lot to potentially lose by deciding to run for office. Dan has skin in the game and does this for the future of his children.

  4. I agree. The trick now is working to make sure this election is a fair fight.

    One of the advantages of being Ben Cardin is money, lots of it. We need to do what we can to level the playing field, by helping Dan raise money and by being creative in how we develop voter support without spending a fortune to do it. Are you ready for that?

    Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.


  5. Yes, Cardin needs to go. Why ? Because he is on the wrong side of every issue I can think of. He has not only done nothing, he has done what little he has done in the wrong direction. Filling this slot is all about which direction we want our country to go. Is Bongino the right replacement? Yes, because he is on the right side of every issue that matters — taxation, size of government, integrity, the national debt, support of small business, job creation, favoring a flatter income tax. On top of that Bongino is smart as a tack and would be a strong voice for us in the Senate — not a weak rubber stamp. And that is what Cardin is and has been — a weak rubber stamp for the wrong direction.

  6. I agree, but not that Ben Cardin is wrong and Dan Bongino is right on every issue. To be honest, I don’t really buy that point, but I do agree emphatically that Senator Cardin has been an insignificant contributor in a time when we need so much more from our representatives in the House and the Senate. And absolutely, he’s done little more than rubber stamp his party’s line – while, unfortunately, most of his Republican counterparts have done the same on their side of the aisle. Is it any wonder they never get anything done?

    While we’re on the subject, don’t you find it interesting that no Cardin supporter, perhaps Ben Cardin himself if he’s not too busy introducing new legislation, hasn’t commented in defense of his candidacy?

    Thanks for stopping by. Please do your best to encourage people you know are undecided to think about this race and voice their opinions for either candidate.


  7. Neutrality may be a virtue for your website but not for the rest of us. One of the most logical ways for the voting public to sort out candidates — especially when we are down to 2 for a given job — is by comparing the candidates’ stands on the list of issues most important to us. Most of us who care about the outcome in the first place think we routinely do that. My point was that Cardin comes down on the opposite side of my preference on most issues while Bongino comes down on same side I do on most issues. “Every issue I could think of ” means those that matter to me, not literally every issue. I find it even more compelling that Cardin has not staked out significant issue positions and fought for them. Instead he has been the automatic vote for the Democratic Party line. Name a major issue and the probability is that the Democratic position is one I abhor. Neutrality and complacency is what got the USA into this foolish mess. I switched my voter registration this year for the first time after decades as a registered Democrat. I have no intention of “encouraging people … to think about” any race from a viewpoint of neutrality.

  8. Hi. Let’s agree that you and I have both decided that we want Ben Cardin out, and Dan Bongino in. The question now isn’t why either of us has made that decision, but what we can do to encourage all the other voters to come to the same conclusion. How exactly to do that may be where we differ.

    Maryland is a predominantly Democrat state. (You and I know that, but other people reading my blog are from someplace else.) No doubt, many people who end up voting for Dan Bongino, like yourself, will be doing so because they like his positions on specific issues. Unfortunately, letting people know what Dan thinks is a very time consuming, expensive process. More to the point, there may not be enough of those “specific issue voters” to win.

    I think the more important question is how do we convince voters who either don’t agree with Dan Bongino, who don’t know what he thinks or just plain don’t care? I believe the answer to that question is to go after Ben Cardin, to attack his greatest advantage, his incumbency. And the way we do that, in the most cost effective manner given that we have a candidate with very limited resources, is not by arguing specific issues which are more difficult to explain and may turn off people whose votes we need, but by accurately characterizing Senator Cardin as a do-nothing, unimaginative, uncompromising official who has been paid over $1 million to spend six years rubber stamping his party’s line. It’s a simple message that’s true, easily proven and that everybody understands regardless of his or her party affiliation and specific concerns.


  9. I just read your three articles about Cardin v Bongino. I, too, was frustrated about the lack of passion and response to voters from Cardin. I’d been an independent for 19 years until this primary season where I changed my registration to Republican, partially to vote for Dan Bongino in the Primary. I think he has a compelling enough story to catch the attention of the electorate, and has enough enthusiasm to do the work needed to be done for Maryland. But beyond that, I am now also actively campaigning for Bongino. Never have done that before 2012 either. Something needs to be done in this country and if we keep electing the same people who seem complacent that there’s not a huge problem looming, that something isn’t going to happen.

    • Hi, TR. Good morning. Before I forget, WordFeeder is mostly about the fiction I write, although sometimes I can’t help myself which is why there are so many political pieces here. A couple of months ago, I started a second blog,, which is all political. Its objective is to hold our incumbents responsible for the performance of our government while they’re in office. I want to invite you to go there, to the Next Contestant, where there is much more to read about the race between Ben Cardin and Dan Bongino. Your comments and suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

      About Dan Bongino… Hands down, he’ll be better for Maryland than Ben Cardin. That said, I have some constructive criticism of his campaign which is that it seems too directed toward his Republican supporters who are already voting for him.

      To win, Dan needs to make the campaign less of a crusade for what he believes, and more of a referendum on what Ben Cardin has done, and not done, to justify his re-election. It’s the only way he’ll attract the attention of Democrats and Independents who are undecided or whose commitment to Cardin is soft. (If you have time, see my pieces about the negative advertising challengers need to do to defeat a well-funded incumbent when nobody knows your name.)

      Thanks for stopping by.


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