Last week I experienced firsthand an increasingly rare, but extraordinarily positive event in the ever-changing political arena. The event was the 46th annual Tawes Crab & Clam Bake in Crisfield Somerset County. Sponsored by the Crisfield Chamber of Commerce, Tawes is part great food, part great networking and part great schmoozing.
One long – standing tradition at Tawes is welcoming attendance by individuals with a wide range of political party affiliations, ideologies, public policy issue positions race, age, sexual orientation, income levels and all the unique identities that some use to divide us on a regular, often daily basis.
Another long-standing tradition at Tawes is a commitment by every attendee to engage in respectful and civil dialogue.
Last, but not least another long- standing tradition at Tawes is elected officials and candidates meeting face to face with voters to learn more about voter opinions and concerns.
Accordingly, Tawes attracts a substantial number of elected and appointed government officials and political candidates.
This year, elected officials attending included: Governor Wes Moore, Lt. Governor Aruna Miller, State Comptroller Brooke Lierman, State Senator Johnny Mautz, State Senator Steve Hershey, State Senator Mary Beth Carozza, State Delegate Chris Adams, and elected and appointed officials from local governments too numerous to list here.
This year (an off-year election year) candidate guests included: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Montgomery County Council Member Will Jawando, both of whom are running in a primary to be the Democratic candidate to represent Maryland in the U.S. Senate. Candidate guests this year also included Chris Bruneau who is running in a primary to be the Republican candidate to represent Maryland’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S House of Representatives.
The entire Tawes experience stands in striking contrast to what is now the new normal in politics. This new normal is characterized by intense and often uncivil conflicts over deeply held differences of opinion on a wide range of public policy issues. That is especially the case in Washington DC on such issues as immigration, climate change, debt ceiling limits, budget deficits, government shutdowns, and impeachment inquiries.
Maryland is not immune to this new normal in politics. Battle lines are already being drawn for the upcoming 2024 General Assembly session on state funding mandates on local school districts, tax increases, and a possible new tax on vehicle miles driven despite recent boosts of the state gas tax from 42.7 cents per gallon to 47 cents per gallon and the state diesel fuel tax from 43.5 cents per gallon to 47.5 cents per gallon.
Tawes has been and continues to serve as a great model for politics the way it should be by advancing the following principles. Welcoming and mutual respect for all with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, listen first to understand, then speak to be understood, and an unwavering commitment to the concept that we can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.
David Reel is a public affairs/public relations consultant who serves as a trusted advisor on strategy, advocacy, and media matters who resides in Easton.