This is one of a series of profiles of political activists, businesses, and civic organizations in Maine.
Gerald Weinand has been involved in politics since he was sixteen, when he stuffed envelopes for the city council election of a friend’s father. Weinand moved to Maine in 1989, intending to stay only two years, but, “fell in love with the state,” and has made his home along the coast ever since. An architect by training, today Weinand operates an influential progressive blog, Dirigoblue.com, from his home in Rockland, and provides commentary on both national and Maine politics.
Weinand says that he has always been “on the left/liberal side of things,” and that as part of participating in his first presidential campaign he held up half of a twenty-five foot sign reading “Reagan for Fuhrer” at one of the future president’s rallies. After the 2000 election, Weinand began posting on progressive and liberal sites such as the Daily Kos and the Democratic Underground, and eventually became the editor of the Maine political site turnmaineblue.com. When the owner of that site suddenly shut it down, and Weinand was scheduled to participate in a call-in with future President Barack Obama, he decided to launch Dirigo Blue.
Weinand laments the fact that many proposals today in Maine politics are framed in a “take it or leave it manner.” He believes that liberals and conservatives both have important roles to play in government. Despite what he expressed as his desire for compromise, Weinand has significant disagreements with Governor LePage. “I followed the gubernatorial race pretty closely last year. I know the Governor’s modus operandi on how he likes to speak, and there is a lot of hyperbole to back up the points he wants to make, not necessarily facts. We ended up having an entire list, the omnibus of the lies and gaffes of Paul LePage. Its just amazing the things he will say, and Bruce Poliquin is following in that mold. You go to these town halls and you hear the gasps in the audience, and yet you know that what was said is not necessarily the truth.” Weinand hopes that through his site, he can work to, “have the Governor and the legislature, all of them, not just Republicans, but Democrats as well, account for what they are saying, and to make sure that whatever is being argued has some basis in fact.”
Weinand feels that one of the major issues in Maine and the United States today is a lack of engagement in politics, and that as a result, we leap from one crisis to the next. To increase engagement he suggests that “Politics has to be made relevant to people. (…) Republicans have done a better job of making politics more relevant to young people. I think its more the hot-button social issues that are the key there; its gay marriage, sex out of wedlock, abortion, there are others. I think a lot of that comes directly from the parents. Most people think taxes happen. They think they have no control, this idea that government does stuff, “can you believe government did that,” well, it’s not like its some living creature. You are the government. If you want it to change, you have to start paying attention. I have tried to reach out to the college democrats, and the response is crickets. It seems weird to me, especially when you figure that these are the people that are already engaged.”
When asked about the two most recent outpourings of citizen engagement, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, Weinand said, “I think that there is a lot of cross-over between the two groups. (…) They are both reacting to, not a kleptocracy, but an oligarchy of corporate power. They are just reacting to it in different ways. I think that the Tea Party, because of its conservative bent of its members, just thinks that smaller government would be the solution. I think that would just allow the further take over of our economy and government. Just wait until you see the money that is going to come in next year because of the Citizens United case. (…) I think that the OWS failed or is failing because they do not have any core message other than that they don’t like what is going on.”
On the current economic state of Maine, Weinand laments the lack of well-paying jobs, suggesting that, “Demographics are going to be hard to overcome. (…) I think that we need to start considering good-paying manufacturing jobs that have left the state. (…) However, we are at the end of the line, and so anything we bring here for assembly or whatever will have to travel a long way, and then have to be back through again.. (…) I am not sure what the solution is, but there used to be a lot of good-paying jobs here in Maine. Millinocket used to be called “magic city,” and they had one of the busiest car dealerships in the country. (…) There has been this drive to force wages down, and off-shoring has been the real impetus for that because transportation is so cheap. There is an idea that I’ve had for a long time to not allow products or produced to be imported into the United States that were not manufactured or raised to meet the standards here. (…) We aren’t going to be able to compete wage-wise with the rest of the world, but why should we allow products into the country that couldn’t be made here.”
When asked about objectivity in the media, Weinand said, “I find it fascinating that people think the news would be fair and balanced. As long as your bias is known and well established, your readers will know, and they can go find the other side or the middle. Most newspapers in the world operate that way, and it used to be that way in the United States until consolidation started happening. (…) That used to be very common, and now it is gone. Maine has a really rich tradition of newspapers, and unlike the rest of the country, there are still a lot of small town newspapers. (…) Back in the time of Edward R. Murrow, news used to be operated at a loss. However, when it was decided that the news needed to become a money-maker as well, that is when things really changed. That is when you started to see these stories where what is going to drive the viewership is what is reported.”
Weinand’s activism is more a labor of love than a for-profit venture. Though he is active in the political discussion, he says he isn’t paid by any political organization. The only time he would take money from such an organization, he says, is if they were to buy advertising on his site. Weinand’s blog can be read at www.DirigoBlue.com. He also hosts a weekly radio show, ‘The One on the Right, on WRFR 93.3 in Rockland.