Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. likes to remind folks that he’s a student of history — all the histories, as he once said on the Senate floor a few years back.
On Monday, Miller dropped some of that knowledge in the form of an anecdote that combines a trip to western Maryland and cannibalism as he tried to explain how voters are becoming angry, both nationally and here in Maryland.
So, in our first installment of “Dropping the Mike” — a chronicle of the notable and quotable Mike Miller — here is that anecdote, as told to a gathering of state nonprofit leaders.
“There’s a lot of anger out there,” Miller said. “It didn’t used to be that way in Maryland.”
But that’s not to say Miller hasn’t had his concerns. He explained that he took a trip 20 years ago to western Maryland for a building dedication at Frostburg State University, a region not historically known for supporting Democrats.
“Garrett County has never voted for a Democrat — never, ever,” Miller said. “The only time they switched off the Republican Party was when Teddy Roosevelt — this was for the presidency and Teddy Roosevelt ran as a Bull Moose. Garrett County voted for Teddy Roosevelt. Other than that, even during the Lyndon Johnson election in 1964, they voted for a Republican. It wasn’t anger it was just a different political opinion.”
So Miller is out in Garrett County and is told he should visit the Youghiogheny River with three Republican county commissioners, who throw the Senate president in the back of a truck and set off.
“It was cold,” Miller said. “I had on a blue cashmere overcoat on and they put me in the back of a pick up truck. You can imagine the back — I know you’re not from the country but this is the back — these three Republicans sat in the cab warm and toasty. I’m standing in the back, going up these logging trails. And it was in April and it started snowing in Garrett County. I mean, the snow is covering my coat, my hair. God damn, all I can think about is Alfred Packer.”
“Alfred Packer was sentenced to die in July 1876 — this is a true story — he was being tried for cannibalism, cannibalism. And the judge, before sentencing him said: ‘Alfred Packer, there are only seven Democrats in all of Hillsdale County Colorado, and you, ya son of a bitch, went and ate six of them.'”
“That’s all I could think of when I was up in Garrett County, you know, was Alfred Packer revisited,” Miller said.
“But now, I get that in Calvert County and St. Mary’s County, the Eastern Shore, Harford County, parts of Baltimore County. It’s tough. It’s really tough out there and it’s really tough being a moderate to progressive.”