Insider: “Wes Moore says MAGA can’t ‘define what it means to be a patriot’”
A new profile from Insider highlights how combat veteran and Democratic candidate for governor Wes Moore is “speaking forcefully about patriotism in a way that can appeal to voters across the ideological spectrum while also refusing to cede ground to the GOP on the issue.” Moore told Insider: “That’s what we’re pushing back against right there. The idea that somehow we’ve allowed this MAGA movement to control this idea of patriotism and try to define what it means to be a patriot and what it means to defend your country… And I’m like, and I’m sorry, you mean the people who tried to destroy it?.. They’re the patriots? The ones who are claiming that they are the defenders of freedom?”
Insider writes how Moore “believes it is critical for the next leader of the state to articulate that no one political party or movement holds a monopoly over service to the country.”
Insider continues on Moore’s message of unity: “For Moore, traveling to western Maryland is a reflection of how he’d need to govern if elected, by listening to residents in places where Democratic candidates don’t always perform well.”
Read the full profile from Insider below:
- Maryland gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore is seeking to reshape how patriotism and service are discussed in the public arena.
- Moore, a Democrat, told Insider he won’t cede the definition of patriotism to any one group or movement.
- The former nonprofit executive has proposed a service-year option for high school graduates.
FREDERICK, Maryland — In the banquet hall of Asbury United Methodist Church, one of the oldest Black churches in the historic city roughly an hour’s drive west of Baltimore, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore last week began his message to the party faithful with a focus on service.
Moore — who served as a captain and paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army and was deployed to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2006 — told attendees it’s imperative that all Marylanders benefit from progress in the state, a driving tenet of his campaign.
“There was something that they taught us on our first day of military training, whether you were Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard … It was simple. Leave no one behind, ever,” Moore told the crowd. “If you get one of my people, I will send a battalion to go get them if I have to. We leave no one behind.”
As Moore spoke alongside his lieutenant governor running mate, former state Del. Aruna Miller, he connected this theme to fighting child poverty and reducing disparities in health care, reaffirming that their potential administration would be one shaped by tackling some of the most enduring issues affecting citizens of the state.
Across much of the country, Democratic candidates have campaigned against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, while also touting the impact of President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill in their respective states and emphasizing the need to safeguard free and fair elections in the United States.
But Moore has crafted a deeply personal campaign pitch, with the first-time political candidate speaking forcefully about patriotism in a way that can appeal to voters across the ideological spectrum while also refusing to cede ground to the GOP on the issue — especially in the wake of the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.
As we rode on the campaign bus from Frederick County, a new swing area, to Hagerstown, a city in Republican-leaning Western Maryland, Moore noticed a property featuring both an American flag and a flag touting the “Make America Great Again” movement personified by former President Donald Trump.
“Here you’ve got a guy with an American flag and a Trump flag, and for so many people in our society, they think those two things are synonymous with each other. Right?” Moore, 44, told Insider. “That’s what we’re pushing back against right there. The idea that somehow we’ve allowed this MAGA movement to control this idea of patriotism and try to define what it means to be a patriot and what it means to defend your country.”
“And I’m like, and I’m sorry, you mean the people who tried to destroy it?” he continued. “They’re the patriots? The ones who are claiming that they are the defenders of freedom?”
Over the course of the general election campaign, Moore — a Valley Forge Military College and Johns Hopkins-educated Rhodes Scholar who wrote the best-selling 2010 book “The Other Wes Moore” — has tied his commitment to service with policies that he said would improve the lives of Marylanders.
Moore’s opponent, GOP state Del. Dan Cox, is a Trump-backed conservative who represents parts of Frederick County and chartered three buses to Washington, DC, to attend the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6; he tweeted that day that then-Vice President Mike Pence was a “traitor.” Cox later denounced the violence that occurred at the Capitol and said he did not march to the building, and also apologized for his comment about Pence.
Both men are running to succeed two-term Gov. Larry Hogan, an anti-Trump Republican who won in both 2014 and 2018 by positioning himself as a consensus builder who could provide political balance in the solidly Democratic state. Hogan, who is eyeing a potential 2024 presidential campaign, has declined to endorse Cox’s gubernatorial bid.
Moore, who would be Maryland’s first Black governor if he is elected next month, believes it is critical for the next leader of the state to articulate that no one political party or movement holds a monopoly over service to the country.
“We are going to have to address some very real generational challenges — economic, educational, housing,” he told Insider. “But I also believe one of the prerequisites of the next chief executive is we’ve got to step up and put to rest this idea that a fringe group has taken claim and grabbed a hold of the mantra of patriotism of a country.”
“I refuse to let anybody try to wrestle that away,” Moore continued, “or claim that they have a higher stake or some higher claim to it than I or my family or people who I served with or my community members.”
‘We have to fix this rupture of divisiveness’
After winning a competitive multi-candidate Democratic primary that featured Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Moore honed in on his message of patriotism, proposing a year of service that could afford critical job training and mentorship opportunities for Maryland high school graduates. He has envisioned the service-year option as something that could potentially be funded in partnership with federal, state, and local government entities.
Moore, the former chief executive of the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty nonprofit organization, said “those who serve together will generally stay together,” alluding to the stark divides that have come to define many aspects of modern American culture.
“I’m a big believer that part of government’s job is to find what works, to make sure that it’s supported, and then to scale it out,” he said. “We have to fix this rupture of divisiveness and this vitriol that we have in our society. Why not actually address both of those two things at the same time?”
“Give them an opportunity to be able to be part of something bigger than themselves. And the reason that I know that it worked is it’s exactly what I saw in the military,” Moore added. “We all had very different backgrounds. But when you gave us a collective bond, it’s amazing how that changed the perception and oftentimes many prejudices that we had walking into the situation.”
For Moore, traveling to western Maryland is a reflection of how he’d need to govern if elected, by listening to residents in places where Democratic candidates don’t always perform well.
During the ride, Moore delved into a state-level child tax credit program that he hopes to implement that will be similar to the one that lapsed at the federal level last December; it’s a policy proposal that could potentially attract some Republican support.
A September poll cosponsored by Goucher College, WYPR public radio, and The Baltimore Banner found that Moore led Cox by 22 points (53%-31%) among likely voters.
And in the latest Washington Post-University of Maryland survey, Moore held a commanding 60%-28% lead among registered voters, attracting the support of 86% of Democrats and 22% of Republicans — a reversal from 2018 when it was Hogan who was garnering sizable crossover support.
Mileah Kromer, an associate professor of political science and the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College, told Insider that Moore’s conversations about patriotism and service have been “an incredibly effective message for him.”
“If you look back at 2018, Hogan was so successful because he was able to attract a broad cross-section of voters that included the full support from his base, but also a ton of Democrats and robust support from independents,” she said. “Wes Moore’s campaign in so many ways is so different from the last Democratic nominee, who really focused on the progressive wing of the party. And he has talked about patriotism and his military service in a way that has helped him get the attention of independents, older voters, and more conservative Democrats who may have voted for Hogan in the last two cycles.”
“From a political standpoint, it has also insulated Wes Moore against Dan Cox trying to say he’s some sort of far-left socialist. None of those attacks have stuck in any significant way because that’s not who he is,” Kromer added.
Moore emphasized that, if elected, he would put together a government that resembled the state.
“I want all Marylanders to be able to look at the administration that we’re going to build, from Cabinet secretaries, agency heads, and everything to look up and say, ‘I see myself around the table,'” he said. “I mean that.”