2014 Gubernatorial Campaign

Editorial: Harsh Words No Excuse for Quashing Dissent

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The Downeast Coastal Press is a weekly newspaper based in Cutler, Maine. (Image Source: Facebook.com)

The following editorial was published in the March 4-10 edition of the Downeast Coastal Press. It is reproduced here, with permission, in full. 

A controversy surrounding conservative Rep. Larry Lockman erupted last week after liberal pundit and blogger Mike Tipping published a series of public statements on hot-button issues made years ago by the Amherst Republican who is serving his first term in the House. Lockman can defend himself (see his nearby op-ed), but to pull intemperate moments and inartful wording out of context to embarrass a political foe raises a more salient question.

The controversy is either an exposé of a sitting legislator tantamount to justifying his removal from office or it’s an exemplary display of a JournoList-style liberal collusion designed to bring down a threatening, on-the-rise adversary.

If the latter, it’s an effort to marginalize a political foe by quoting comments he made years ago and employing argumentum verbosium (intimidation), ad hominem (demonization) and ad populum (the bandwagon effect) rather than argue the specific issues he raised.

Tipping makes it clear he wouldn’t vote for Lockman’s re-election and suggests that his constituents shouldn’t, a theme immediately picked up and reported on by other influential liberal forces. The Bangor Daily News wrote a story and Tipping’s fellow liberal columnist and blogger at the BDN, Amy Fried, jumped into the fray, adding guilt by association, implying that not only Lockman, but members of his party should be brought down. “Frankly, while there are issues for Lockman himself, the most critical implications, in my view, involve what this means for Lockman’s party,” wrote Fried. “[T]here is no doubt that the Republican party includes others like Lockman. He is not alone in his views.”

The chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, jumping on the bandwagon and adding to the drumbeat, called for Lockman to resign immediately from the legislature in the face of such overwhelming condemnation before another word be spoken on the matter.

Just as Fried would tar and feather the Republican Party along with Lockman, Tipping includes the tea party movement with his broad brushstrokes: “This look back also illustrates that the radicalism and anger that we now ascribe to the tea party has existed in corners of our political environment for decades. The current conservative movement has only magnified it and brought it closer to the levers of power.”

Tipping would have us believe that Lockman, based on his past statements, is far out of line with today’s politics and mores. A closer, less tendentious reading, suggests that Lockman, in his younger days was a man who saw untoward things happening in our government and society long before most did. A strong defender of Constitutional rights, as Tipping relates, Lockman anticipated the five-year-old tea party movement. Similarly, an early and outsized critic of the Internal Revenue Service, when he refused to pay his taxes in protest, Lockman’s foresight has been confirmed by the abuses now being investigated by Congress with respect to the IRS’s targeting of tea party organizations and well-known conservatives, along with the mass surveillance of private emails and other digital data by the federal National Security Agency.

On social issues, including abortion and homosexuality, Lockman holds deep feelings based on his personal moral values about these still-controversial issues. While liberals would have you believe that these issues are “settled,” polls show that anti-abortion forces have actually gained adherents in recent years, moving closer to Lockman’s position, with Gallup reporting that whereas 56 percent of Americans were pro-choice and 33 percent pro-life in 1996, in 2013, 45 percent were pro-choice and 48 percent pro-life.

There are also those who can support gay rights in the political realm who also consider homosexuality a sin based on their religious beliefs.

While Lockman decries his hyperbole of an earlier day, his critics are engaged today in the more egregious misconduct of misrepresenting his views. In a 1995 letter in the Lewiston Sun Journal, cited by Tipping and others, the letter writer quotes a statement attributed to Lockman: “If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”

Here Lockman is using the heinous crime of rape to emphasize his disdain for abortion. He’s saying there’s no more a “right” to abortion than there is for a man to rape a woman. An extremely harsh comparison that unfortunately could be misconstrued to his policy meaning, but it’s quite something else to cite the attributed statement in the hope that readers will interpret the hardline position against abortion as Lockman being a supporter of rape.

At issue is the use of statements without their context, and creating a sensation based on emotional impact rather than the policies expressed. Certainly the statements uttered by Lockman in the past at which we flinch can be reviewed more closely, but no one should condone last week’s cherry-picking of the views of a freshman lawmaker in the interest of silencing him and stifling debate, particularly one who today has proved himself a fervent and articulate spokesman, both in promoting his agenda and rebutting those of his opponents.

The following editorial was published in the March 4-10 edition of the Downeast Coastal Press. It is reproduced here, with permission, in full. 

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson was the editor of The Maine Wire from 2013 through 2014. A native of Dexter, Maine, Robinson is a graduate of Bowdoin College, and is currently a Producer for The Howie Carr Show in Boston.

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