Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley came to the Marvin Center Sunday to answer questions about his presidential run and the state of the country in an event hosted by the GW College Democrats.
O’Malley spoke to more than 50 students about topics ranging from the changing Democratic Party platform to his role in campaigning for Democratic candidates in special elections nationwide. Speaking the day after hundreds of thousands rallied for a stronger gun control laws in a youth-driven march, O’Malley said he was hopeful about the country’s direction despite the current turbulent political climate.
“You guys give me hope. You’re not quite as burdened by all of the baggage of people my generation and older,” he said. “If you ever want to know where the nation is headed, listen to the attitudes of our young people under 25.”
In an interview with The Hatchet, O’Malley said he wanted to persuade students who may have become disenchanted with politics following President Donald Trump’s election to focus on issues like climate change and gun control that he said the Trump administration has neglected.
“What I hope to be able to do in the time we have together is to encourage those students that are feeling a calling to be candidates and run for office or get involved in the process,” O’Malley said in an interview. “I hope I’m able to reinforce that calling and maybe demystify that and perhaps provide a little bit of a nudge for some of these individuals.”
O’Malley said that during his time away from being a governor or presidential candidate, he hopes to focus on helping other Democrats win local elections, but he wouldn’t rule out another presidential run in 2020.
“I’m keeping an open heart and an open mind about possibly running again,” he said.
During his remarks to the College Democrats, O’Malley reflected on his experience running for president in 2016 and said it was “the toughest office to get elected to in the free world.” He dropped out of the Democratic primary race after the Iowa caucuses and later endorsed Hillary Clinton.
He added that during his campaign, he was surprised by the anger voters across the country had toward the political system.
“What surprised me most wasn’t the depth or the breadth of the anger, but the patience of the anger,” O’Malley said. “It was like people wanted to pull their car in the angry lane, park it and throw their keys out the window.”
Voters were likely disillusioned because many faced consistent job insecurity, O’Malley said. People with a high school education or less never saw their economic standing improve after the 2008 recession, even as politicians reported increasing levels of job growth and opportunity.
But he added that voters are now looking for something other than anger in the candidates they support.
“I don’t think anyone expects any politician to have the 100-point plan for fixing everything, but they do expect you to be a decent person and have a framework for the things they care about,” he said. “What’s the buzzword you hear all the time? Authentic. But we don’t want someone who is authentically without principle.”
O’Malley said the Trump administration has been a setback for tolerance and hampered racial equality, but he said he remains optimistic that the country’s core principles will remain intact.
“You and I are part of a living, self-creating mystery called the United States of America. But the promises at the heart of that mystery is a very real thing. Not only should you be able to get ahead, you should be able to give your kids and your grandkids a better future,” he said. “We’re Americans. We make our own destiny, not time or chance. We have the opportunity to remake this world in a much more life-giving way.”