Back in NH, O’Malley says it’s time for Democrats to end 2016 ‘pity party’ As originally appearing in WMUR
By John DiStaso
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley returned to New Hampshire Tuesday expressing optimism that Democrats can win control of Congress in November, but he also called on his party to end the “pity party” prompted by the 2016 election results.
O’Malley campaigned extensively for the Democratic presidential nomination in the first-in-the-nation primary in the months leading to the 2016 leadoff primary, but he suspended his campaign about a week before the primary after a poor showing in the Iowa Democratic caucus.
Making his fourth visit to New Hampshire in the past year, O’Malley on Tuesday was upbeat about the future of the Democratic Party and the nation.
As he considers another run for president, O’Malley spoke to a group of Democratic and Republican business leaders at a traditional Politics and Eggs breakfast sponsored by the New England Council at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
Also in the state on Tuesday was Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who ran for president in 2016 and, like O’Malley, is considering another run in 2020.
O’Malley, who is also a former mayor of Baltimore, has spent much time since the 2016 election teaching and lecturing on college campuses, including Harvard, Boston College and the University of Maryland. He said the experience provided him with “solace, if you will, and a lot of hope about the future.”
“For any of us who have any experience in politics, the last election was a deeply humbling experience, whether we’re Democrats or independents or Republicans,” he said. “It has caused all of us to think deeply about who we are as a people and our republic.”
“I have no doubt that our country is going to come through this temporary time and when we do, we’ll be the better for it,” he said.
He said that in speaking to college students, he has conveyed that the single biggest issue facing our nation is “trust or lack of trust.”
“We need to shake ourselves out of it,” he said. “Darkness makes a great canvass and it’s springtime. There is a goodness within our country that is longing to be called forward.”
O’Malley said that as a Democrat, he believes that President Donald Trump “has been the most effective tool for candidate recruitment we have ever had.”
He said that he has traveled to 21 states campaigning for 36 state legislative candidates in special elections, including New Hampshire state Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh and state Rep. Kari Lerner, as well as Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig in a local election.
He said that he has “re-purposed” his leadership political action committee, which, he said, is now named “Win Back Your State” and is focused on legislative elections.
“I believe that in order to save the United States, we need to win back our own states,” O’Malley said.
But at the same time, he said he also believes that with Trump in the White House, Democrats can win control of Congress in November.
“Out of this sort of well-spring of new activism in our party, I see the makings of the winning Democratic message, not just for our party, but for our country,” O’Malley said.
“Our party has a profound responsibility right now to speak to the concerns that people all across the United States have, to lay out the actions that will actually save our democracy” and “make our children winners in a changing economy.”
He said Democrats “need to start acting like Democrats again,” and stop “the pity party.”
While focused on state and local candidates in this year’s election, O’Malley said during a taping of WMUR’s “CloseUP” program that he is “keeping an open heart and an open mind to running again” for president. (The full interview with WMUR’s Adam Sexton will be aired Sunday at 10 a.m.)
Addressing issues raised by audience members, O’Malley said that while serving as governor in the aftermath of the shootings of elementary school students in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, his state closed loopholes on information sharing and improved school perimeter protections.
On guns, he said that his state required licensing with fingerprinting and background checks for gun purchases and banned the sale of what he called “combat assault weapons” and magazines of more than 10 rounds.
But he said that during the intense debate, “We were careful not to vilify our opponents.”
“What I think our nation can get to, and maybe the states can get there before the United States can get there, is universal background checks and a ban on combat assault weapons,” he said.
O’Malley said college student debt should be addressed by making the first two years of community college education tuition free and encouraging businesses to more actively help students finance “micro degrees.”
Questioned about the future of the Social Security, O’Malley said the program should not only be saved, but expanded. He proposed raising the cap on maximum earnings subject to Social Security taxes “by getting more dollars to be paid into it.”
“We would do ourselves well as a nation to articulate a new bill of rights for American workers in the 21st century,” he said, “and among those rights is the right to retire with dignity, not in poverty.”
O’Malley also said that to address the increasingly bitter partisanship in the country, redistricting electoral districts should be done on a nonpartisan basis. He said he would also be open to ranked-choice voting.
To address needs in rural health care, O’Malley called for the federal government to provide additional assistance to train new physicians “and ask that as part of that they pay off their college debt by going to serve in some rural parts of the country, where there is such a shortage.”