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L’Affaire Sanderson: Maine State Rep Gets National Attention

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Prof. John Frary

By. Prof. John Frary - Last week Rep. Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea) surprised herself and her friends by becoming a sudden national sensation.

Sanderson’s fame began in Maine’s front yard with a March 13 Portland Press Herald report by Joe Lawlor entitled “Medicaid expansion vote has real-life impact for low-income Mainers.” The Chelsea Republican appeared in the middle of the story: “Rep. Deb Sanderson, R-Chelsea, said adding that many Mainers to a government program would be too expensive for the state, and some may prefer subsidized private insurance through the health insurance marketplace”.  (This comment and the following were part of a conversation regarding the flawed federal law that eliminates subsidies for individuals under 138% of federal poverty level if a state expands.) “‘You’re taking personal choice away from people who may choose to not be on the Mainecare rolls,’ Sanderson said. ‘That’s lousy’.  If Mainecare expansion doesn’t pass, she said, ‘maybe it will incentivize some folks to pick up extra work and earn more money.’”

That last sentence stirred up hot excitement among the juveniles who spend their idle hours on the Dailykos.com and talkingpointsmemo.com websites.  Although it can scarcely matter to those excitable kids, Lawlor truncated the representative’s sentence in a significant way, allowing the reader to infer a much different meaning. Her March 14 e-mail to Lawlor makes this clear:

“Your question to me was did I think that some people might be incentivized to try and make more in order to meet the income threshold and qualify for exchange subsidies.  My answer to you was it might, but we can’t forget that some can’t and we have to keep working on a solution for that population.”

Lawlor replied that same morning, acknowledging that she had made no “sweeping condemnation of the poor” while disclaiming Portland Press Herald’s responsibility for “anonymous Internet commenters on a hyper-partisan site.” He also agreed that “you had more to say, and your comments were truncated.” Another e-mail, he sent to both Sanderson and David Sorenson, Communications Director Maine House Republicans, was explicit about the truncation: “A portion of Rep. Sanderson’s comments that I wrote were cut out of the low-income Mainers health insurance story in the editing process. It happens sometimes – I have no control over it, but I apologize.”

Joe closes by advising Deb to “try not to read hyper-partisan, anonymous Internet commenters.” This patronizing advice ignored Deborah Sanderson’s references to the flood of violent and obscene denunciations, (Cue the theme to “Jaws”)  she had received via the e-mail, tweet, Facebook channels and an anonymous caller hidden behind a restricted number which contemporary office-holders can’t possibly ignore.

More importantly, the bland assumption that there’s a tall, thick, hard partition between the “hyper-partisan websites” and such Maine media luminaries as Bill Nemitz, Edgar Allen Beem, Mike Tipping, Colin Woodard, et al. is very much open to question. True, they don’t openly propose to punch Deborah in the face, or put a bullet through her head. Neither do they employ the Infamous F-Word or other obscenities when speaking of her. Unlike the KosRanters and MemoRavers they are obliged to use their own names. Their secret thoughts may be unprovable, but their inhibitions are self-evident. We are entitled to our guesses.

Readers accustomed to reading repetitive denunciations of “right-wing haters” may benefit from checkinghttp://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/maine-gop-lawmaker-medicaid-expansion and
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/13/1284469/-Maine-lawmaker-to-would-be-Medicaid-recipients-Get-a-job.  It’s clear from these sites that “right-wingers” may have stiff competition in the National Hate Marathon, (NHM) from the compassionate, tolerant left.

There are two things you can always find on progressive websites, whether they are hyper-partisan or merely partisan like the Democratic Governors Association. One is a denunciation of the Koch Brothers. The other is shrill sputtering rage against the Tea Party.

Deborah tells me she is astonished to discover her intimate association with those villainous billionaires and disappointed that they have never made a contribution to her Cayman Islands bank accounts.  She guesses it’s in the mail, like a liberal’s check to hospitals in Maine.

Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhomecompanion.com and can be reached at:jfrary8070@aol.com

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