Op-Ed: It’s Time For 1st District’s Dr. No To Go by Michael Mcdowell And George Shivers


Congressman Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, simply won’t restrain his extremist, far-beyond-the-mainstream behavior in Congress.

Just last week, the so-called “Freedom” Caucus Republican met infamous Holocaust denier and notorious white nationalist Chuck Johnson. There is a photo on the web of Harris and Johnson on Capitol Hill. Harris claims he met with this odious anti-Semite to discuss “DNA sequencing.”

This would be laughable, were it not so serious and part of a long-established pattern. A 30-second search on Google would have shown Harris — and his large staff, who no doubt he would like to blame — the nasty reputation of exactly who he was engaging with.

How encouraged Johnson must have been to win face-time and a public photograph, which went viral showing Harris and another hard-right congressman with Johnson at the Capitol.

Harris talked with Johnson literally one day after Harris had, at long last, joined in criticism of his good friend and longtime Freedom Caucus ally, Congressman Steve King of Iowa, by voting, with all other Republicans and Democrats, to condemn King’s latest outrageous bigoted remarks. Hardly a difficult call after King’s hateful comments.

But Andy Harris, in addition, showed how unfit he is to represent the people of District 1. The next day, after meeting Johnson, Harris voted to lift punitive U.S. sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, Trump’s favorite strongman.

Tellingly, Republican House leaders voted with Democrats to keep the sanctions on Deripaska. Not our Congress member. Did he conveniently forget that the shady Deripaska had paid convicted felon and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, millions of dollars, which special counsel Robert Mueller investigated? But then Manafort gave money to one of Harris’s past campaigns.

We should hardly be surprised at these alarming associations, since Harris continues to vehemently back Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban, divisive prime minister of Hungary, rightly called a noted “neo-fascist” by the late Sen. John McCain. Orban, who used anti-Semitic tropes to win re-election, is another of Andy Harris’s tawdry heroes.

District 1 electors once had an honorable Republican congressman, former Marine Wayne Gilchrest, who represented them for a decade and, briefly, they had a moderate to center-right Democrat in Frank Kratovil. Were it not for the shameful gerrymander by Martin O’Malley of District 1 and Tea Party Harris’ nasty negative primary attacks on Wayne Gilchrest, Harris would not enjoy a majority of votes in each election.

It is less than two years till the next election, in November 2020. And it is high time this gerrymander was changed and the District 1 boundaries revised to provide a palatable democratic choice to voters.

Republican voters need to wake up to the fact that Harris, now in the minority in the Congress, never a committee chairman, and who never passed a law, does not and cannot serve their interests.

Harris, in the past two weeks, has voted down every attempt to get the government opened again. This loud-voiced onetime “deficit hawk” also voted against the latest farm bill, and he firmly supports the damaging agricultural sanctions that Trump has put on China and that provoked the Chinese to cancel wheat and soybean sales from Maryland farmers, which may drive some of them out of business.

It is time for Dr. No/Dr. Do Little to go. The evidence above, in just the last few weeks, shows that Andy Harris, extremist, never changes his spots. Republicans of District 1 need to stand up for democracy with a small “d.” We do not need Steve-King-Lite.

Michael McDowell is a former CBC and BBC journalist and project director at the Aspen Institute and Carnegie Endowment. George Shivers is professor emeritus at Washington College. They both live in Chestertown.

About Dave Wheelan


Letters to Editor

  1. Keith Thompson says

    This is all well and good except that the election was a few months ago and “Dr. No” had an easy victory in the First District. The problem isn’t so much that the Congressman is out of touch with the voters of the district (he keeps getting elected), but that the Eastern Shore has essentially been gerrymandered out of proper representation by the majority party in the Maryland General Assembly. Instead of focusing on a Congressman who really represents constituents in the conservative suburbs of Baltimore, work on redistricting the Maryland congressional map to something that gives the Eastern Shore better representation.

    • Michael McDowell says

      I don’t disagree about the need for an independent electoral commission to reset boundaries in District 1 or 6. But Harris is an extremist. Before our article went to press, Harris voted to support a pull out of NATO, the Western Alliance, which Putin, Trump’s admirer, must just love. Putin is our adversary and undermines out democracy. Even Orban’s Hungary is a member country of NATO. NATO has kept the peace for 70 years and the smaller countries especially around Russia depend on NATO for their safety. Harris is a continuing disgrace. But at least today he and Trump have lost on the stupid “wall” and the cruel and nasty shutdown damaging so many public workers, and Trump has been rightly put in his place by Speaker Pelosi. This 78 year old grandma has more brains and skill than any of the grifters in Trumpland who Harris zealously supports. The man is too extreme even for the majority of conservatives in either Shore. They are voting for a real outlier politically with no clout at all now but who does damage to their interests again and again. You get who you vote for.

    • George Shivers says

      We fully agree that the gerrymander is a major problem for the First District, but we can’t simply blame the western shore part of the district for Harris’s victory. After all, he carried 7 or the 9 Eastern Shore counties and new voter registrations on the Eastern Shore was dominated by the Republican Party. There has to be a new drawing of the voting districts and a way must be found so that District 1 is not completely dominated by one party.

      • Keith Thompson says

        In response to George Shiver’s comment…”We fully agree that the gerrymander is a major problem for the First District, but we can’t simply blame the western shore part of the district for Harris’s victory. After all, he carried 7 or the 9 Eastern Shore counties and new voter registrations on the Eastern Shore was dominated by the Republican Party. There has to be a new drawing of the voting districts and a way must be found so that District 1 is not completely dominated by one party.”

        The major reason for the gerrymandering in Maryland was to put most of the Conservative Republican vote in one district, the First, to allow the rest of the Congressional districts in the state to be dominated by Democrats. If you agree that it’s fair to have District 1 not completely dominated by one party, you must agree that it’s fair that all districts not be dominated by one party. If so, that means you may wind up with more than one Republican representing Maryland in Congress. What’s more important…who individually represents your district or which party is represented by the state as a whole? I’m a believer that a district should have geographic boundaries that make sense and also should contain a homogeneous population with similar interests and issues. I understand that the Eastern Shore doesn’t have a large enough population to make up a district without part of the Western Shore, but the Eastern Shore has very little in common with the conservative Baltimore suburbs where Andy Harris is from. That’s the problem.

    • Marge Fallaw says

      I agree with Keith. Until we have a non-gerrymandered First District, contests will not be competitive so that even an excellent Democratic candidate (as there was in 2018) will likely lose by a considerable margin (about 60%-40%).

    • Steve Payne says

      I don’t think the majority of the district’s residents even know about his positions and involvement with these radical right wing people. Now that his buddy Steve King has been exposed that may change.

  2. Jim Reeves says

    Talk about hate speech!

    • Michael McDowell says

      Can you actually spell out what you mean by your tweet-like four word comment, Mr. Reeves? The opinion piece we wrote was replete with evidence and facts about Harris and his votes. At least detail an argument, don’t just emote! As for “hate speech” it was Harris meeting with an actual notorious purveyor of hate speech in Chuck Johnson, a Holocaust denier, which prompted both Dr. Shivers and myself to show that this action of Harris was not one instance of his appalling extremism but one of many. Over to you.

  3. Rudolph Jenkins says

    A few thoughts on this article:

    I assume that working in a public position, such as in congress, one would meet all kinds of people with all kinds of beliefs and backgrounds. If someone requests to meet with a Senator or Congressman, maybe they should solicit your opinion to help decide which citizens have a right to meet with legislators and have as little past sins ( or at least only the right kind of sins) that they meet your purity test (to protect the representative from being contaminated from these unregenerate, unforgivable sinners).

    Guilt by association does not seem to be fair minded response. Do you know the background of everyone who meets with you? Does anyone you meet with have any skeletons in their closet? Or do you judge yourself by a different standard than you apply to the congressman? Do you think it is easier or harder for him to decide who gets to meet with him and who doesn’t? Do you think members of congress have a lesser or greater responsibility to meet with members of the public, even those citizens they don’t agree with? Again, Maybe he should just lock himself in his office so as to keep these low life sinners away.

    I’m sorry, but this essay comes across as “holier than thou”. I won’t judge someone guilty because they have to meet with or have to work with people of all kinds of backgrounds. I’ve seen Dr. Harris take a lot of verbal abuse from a lot of self righteous people each with their own pet issues that they think should be his number one priority. I’ve seen him be treated rudely, slandered, accused, and berated (usually by self identified Democrats who believe that if you don’t accept their positions 100% than a person should be slandered and treated as less than the dirt on their shoes). He has consistently reacted with patience and returned kindness when he received none from his detractors.

    I judge all my representatives by their fidelity to the Constitution, and for that Congressman Harris receives my vote.

    • Michael McDowell says

      Your last comment resonates, i.e., your reliance on elected representatives who show “fidelity to the Constitution”. So, does Trump measure up to that? And Harris, whose hero is….Trump? Harris’s votes this month to give the benefit of the doubt to a Putin-backing shady Russian billionaire, and his sycophancy towards Hungarian strongman and neo-fascist, Viktor Orban, plus his vote suggesting a weakening of our 70 year commitment to NATO, show clear contempt to the fundamental democratic spirit of the US Constitution. I can’t conceive of agreeing to meet with a noted Holocaust denier. I would shun them. Too precious for you? Harris’s moral calls, — he loathes people who dare to question him, and his regular tetchy retort is “You don’t know what you are talking about” – is very different from mine or democrats with s small “d.”

      • Rudolph Jenkins says

        You are using innuendo as a substitute for facts. Replace references to Russians & neo-fascists with “Jewish bankers” and “greedy capitalists” and your response could be printed in a 1930s German newspaper. It appears you cannot just disagree with someone on policy, but you must paint them as some horrid devil. As if you want your insinuations to be true and would be disappointed that Dr. Harris is not as bad as you have portrayed him. Instead of allowing for the possibility that there is a legitimate difference in opinion on policies, you just paint broad brush of racism and cronyism as motivating factors. I don’t think such demagoguery should go unanswered. I hope that those who read your essay don’t take the bait of to judge someone so unfairly.

        • Michael McDowell says

          You really don’t answer the facts and evidence raised but you resort to unconvincing and weak rhetorical tricks. I leave you with one point. You try to substitute anti-semitism as a comparative device to prove your point. Irony of ironies. Extremist Harris supports a strongman who used anti-semitic tropes shamelessly in his recent election campaign, i.e., Viktor Orban, neo-fascist of Hungary, and Harris meets with a notorious Holocaust denier. Inconvenient facts for some, I suppose. Not for most of us. Demoagoguery, thy name is Harris….and Trump!

    • George Shivers says

      Whether or not Dr. Harris knew with whom he was meeting does not relieve him from responsibility for all his other extremist actions as a member of Congress. If it is “self-righteous” to criticize our elected representative’s actions and votes, based on thorough research and not deviating from the facts, then I admit to being guilty as charged. Dr. Harris does not represent the interests of any of his constituents, be they progressive or conservative, and it’s about time that the Republican voters in District 1 wake up to that fact.

      • Rudolph Jenkins says

        The main thrust of your essay was not about specifics in policy, but you used guilt by association and innuendo. It was horribly biased and unfair. I think Dr. Harris does a great job, however, if you disagree with him on specific polices then that’s your prerogative and you can outline your policy differences and why.

    • Deirdre LaMotte says

      Harris and Trump and other nafarious men are cut from the same cloth. So are those who support people like them. No matter how odious, some, as you , will accommodate
      them so as to fit with your quite questionable world view.

      Excuse me for pointing out what your parents should have: there is such a thing as right and wrong. People have
      integrity or they lack it.

  4. Gren Whitman says

    Michael McDowell wrote: “You get who you vote for.”
    Oh, if that only were true! (I voted for Colvin.)
    What he meant, I suppose, is you get who the majority vote for (or, referencing some recent outcomes, who the Electoral College voted for).

    • Michael McDowell says

      Yes, Mr, Whitman, you are right in your conclusion. We got what the majority in District 1, gerrymandered to stuff as many Republicans and conservatives into it, “wanted” and they got what they voted for — an extremist who voted against many of these supporters own economic and other interests! Hope springs eternal? That is, that enough of these voters wake up to Harris’s appalling actions and dangerous inanities, or that he retires on the fat pension and benefits he has accumulated from the taxpayers, over decades in Annapolis and DC, and begins his trek into the dustbin if history…..

      • Gren Whitman says

        Let me also point out that before the recent redistricting, Maryland had six Dem representatives and two GOPs. The powers-that-be wanted to decrease GOP representation by one and had to decide: Do we create a safe Dem seat in western Maryland or on the Eastern Shore. They chose western Maryland, thus offing Roscoe Bartlett.
        On yet another note, even a cursory glance at the congressional districting map shows that Maryland is one of the most gerrymandered states, embarrassingly so. Much as I support the Dems and much as I am proud to be a Marylander, our state’s gerrymandered districts are scandalous, and richly deserve re-drawing.

        • Michael McDowell says

          I absolutely agree and the GOP are entitled to another seat in Md. I am a democrat with a small “d” first and foremost. We need old time Democratic Party bosses and party-before-state-or-country like Mike Miller in the Senate to retire and allows truly democratic politics into Maryland. It is shameful what he and political hack Martin O’Malley did. No excuse. None. And sadly Brian Frosh, the AG, has a poor stance on this.

          • Michael McDowell says

            Latest Harris update: he is now against a bill in the House which would, he alleges, completely devoid of any serious evidence/proven research, that voter “fraud” is rampant. Trump’s so-called voter fraud commission was disbanded because of there being no-there-there and its head, Kris Kobach, a Harris clone, was soundly defeated in his run for Governor of Kansas in the fall. Dr No lives up to his name once more. And Harris laughingly says HR1 — the bill — is a “disastrous move” against free speech. Harris, like the rest of the mad right believes that MONEY from the Kochs and other billionaire mates of Harris, is “speech” and millions to fund him and other campaigns is “protected” as free speech! Wake up Shore Republicans who vote for this anti-democratic embarrassment to Maryland. He should move to Hungary where his other hero, neo-fascist Viktor Orban, runs an “illiberal” state.

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