A few weeks ago, I moved from West Virginia back to Montgomery County in Maryland, where I had previously lived from 1992 through 2006. Maryland is a solid Democratic state, and therefore Republicans have written it off and the president has no need to campaign in it. So what conservative would even bother to run for Senate in such a liberal state, one in which Michael Steele, a former lieutenant governor in the state, lost to current Senator Ben Cardin by 54 percent to 44 percent?
The answer is Dan Bongino, whom I was privileged to hear speak before a packed meeting today in Silver Spring, Maryland. I predict Bongino will be another one of those rising stars in the Republican Party, a man who is able to produce in an audience the kind of passion and enthusiasm that we have seen for stars like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan. Like both of these men, Bongino has the knack for explaining and defending conservative policies and programs in a way that people can understand without demonizing his opponents — he makes clear it is their policies, not them, that he opposes.
Go to his website and watch the video of him in action, and you’ll catch a glimpse of how he talks to people. In his speech today, Bongino stressed how different this election is than previous ones. He mentioned that while he voted for Bob Dole, he did not think it was a catastrophe that Bill Clinton won a second term. After all, he said, Clinton did some good things with Republican support, and some things he opposed. But the republic lasted, and the country continued to thrive. This election, he said, was something different: the choice is between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, who, he posited, is an “ideologue” who sees things differently than most people.
A former Secret Service officer in the elite Presidential Protection Division during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Bongino said he would have given his life for Obama if need be, and that he considers himself a decent person and a good family man. But he said he entered the race for one reason alone: he believes the policies of the Obama administration are wrong for the country he loves, and he felt compelled to not leave it to others to put America back on the right course. So this former Secret Service officer, who was the lead agent coordinating Obama’s trips to Prague, Jakarta, and the war zone in Afghanistan, has decided to enter the race against the president he served with distinction.
Bongino has a background not just in active police and security work — he has a B.A. and master’s degree in psychology, with a concentration in neuro-psychology and behavioral learning, and a second master’s degree in business administration. He describes himself, as he did today, as a man who is not rich, but a member of the middle class — the very group that polls show is gaining Mitt Romney the most votes. With his wife, he started three small businesses and left his work with her for this campaign.
Bongino is particularly interested in what he calls the main civil rights issue today — that of education for minorities and the poor in central cities. He spoke about his own work on that behalf in those sections of Maryland where poor and minority residents are forced to attend bad schools and have no choice for anything else. As a young boy growing up in Jackson Heights in Queens, New York, only a scholarship from a Catholic school in his borough allowed him to gain the advantage of a solid education denied his friends, who attended poor public schools in his own community.
Listening to Bongino speak, it occurred to me that it is possible he will receive more votes on the Republican line in Maryland than Mitt Romney. There is even a real chance that he could win against his opponent Ben Cardin. Like the presidential candidates, Cardin and Bongino have two or three debates coming up, one of which will be broadcast on one of the three major networks, and another on the local Maryland PBS station. I have not heard Cardin speak, but Bongino is up on both domestic and foreign policy, and can handle anything thrown at him. Like Paul Ryan, he has studied economics and he regularly cites works that have influenced him, like the writings of Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman, and others.
At today’s talk, many of the seniors present were concerned about what their fate might be should Obamacare not be defeated. Explaining the stakes, Bongino answered that the IPAB boards set up to judge what Medicare will or will not cover would result eventually in a two-tier health system: good medical care for the wealthy who can afford concierge service and pay their own way, and poor and diminished medical care for everyone else forced to go into the government-run program without the ability to make a choice of what they want.
So, even if Mitt Romney does not win — and at this point he can pull it out and become our next president — there are local races where good candidates have emerged, and where they can have the ability to reach people, change their way of thinking, and possibly even win. Dan Bongino is one of these candidates, and I hope that this column has served to introduce him to those who until now have not heard about him. And if you live in Maryland like I do, don’t despair. Get out there and do your part.