Just as I finished writing today’s column about Rep. Andy Harris’ efforts to move even further to the way-out Republican right, he adds another item to the resume, signing his name to a letter calling on President Biden to undergo a cognitive fitness test.
Harris had been one of 21 Republicans in the House who opposed a resolution awarding congressional gold medals to Capitol police for their defense of the House and Senate during the violent insurrection led by Trump supporters on Jan. 6. Now he thinks Biden needs to show he’s not senile. Harris was one of 13 House Republicans who signed a letter calling for the fitness test. It’s more of the trollish nonsense we’ve come to expect from the obnoxious wingnuts of the Republican right.
Harris, undistinguished as a legislator, has always been on the fringe, as a member of the House Freedom Caucus. (Our editorial today says this: “The six-term Republican represents Maryland’s 1st congressional district in much the same way that saltwater mosquitoes represent the Chesapeake Bay region — annoyingly and sometimes painfully.”) But Harris has apparently decided that his public profile is not sufficiently conservative for voters of the Big Red One. That’s ridiculous, of course, and it suggests to me that Harris suffers from insecurity about his position, though his seat is considered a safe one.
Most of the 1st District is conservative and white, rural and suburban, Republican and Trumpie. Still, it should not be hard to imagine that, in a state where the far more moderate Republican Gov. Larry Hogan enjoyed off-the-charts popularity, a better Republican candidate might emerge from vote-rich Baltimore County or Harford County to challenge Harris. Hogan’s vote totals from the 2018 gubernatorial election were impressive throughout the 1st District; he had more votes in just Harford and Carroll counties combined than Harris did in the entire district in the last couple of elections.
But here’s the reality check: Unless there’s a sudden change of heart about Trump among Republicans, Trump lackey Harris will probably win again. The Republican bench in Maryland is short; there’s no one, besides Hogan, to challenge Harris in the June 2022 primary, and governors generally do not stoop to run for the House. And unless the boundaries of the 1st District are redrawn to allow for a more competitive midterm election, it’s hard to see any Democrat beating Harris.
He’s apparently what Maryland Republicans want, even with his vote against honoring the Capitol cops. As we saw with Trump, Republican voters ignore contemptible behavior, tolerate lies and content themselves with the emptiness of right-wing politics by repeatedly electing a guy like Andy Harris — a doctor who voted against the Affordable Care Act dozens of times even after thousands of his constituents obtained health insurance through the law. Notably, the Supreme Court yesterday turned back the third major challenge to the ACA, so it’s here to stay. Unfortunately, unless something major happens before June 2022, so is Andy Harris.