What is going on with the Maine Democratic Party?
Former Democratic Rep. Stan Short has quit the party. Former Rep. Brian Bolduc, a Democrat, has called them out. The Party’s leadership has left. Former Democrat and current State Treasurer Terry Hayes has laid bare some of the Party’s problems.
But these are just anecdotes… we can also point to recent elections, especially Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s stunning and historic re-election.
What could possibly explain the desertions, the defections, the electoral trouncing? Surely it’s not all Eliot Cutler’s fault.
Treasurer Hayes hit on the problem when she described what she saw as a State House Democrat: “Winning was all that mattered.”
Ask any Republican what the core principles of the Party are and you’re likely to hear a few simple propositions: Taxes should be low, liberty should be protected, and government should be limited. These statements translate easily into a unified conservative coalition.
Now ask the same of Democratic Party insiders. What would the response be? I suspect the answer would be different depending on which interest group a given Democrat subscribes to. Some might say, “Tax the rich.” Some, “Protect the Unions!” Others might say, “Equality!” “Reproductive Rights” “Stop Global Warming!”
With so many disparate interests competing for sway over Democratic officials, it’s difficult to unify behind any core principles. And when you have no core, unifying principles, the only thing you can agree on is winning.
When winning is the only animating passion of a political alliance, the means of victory become less important. Yet as the Party fixates more and more on winning at any cost, it’s only losing more.
What could save the Democratic Party? Well, I’ve never been a fan of giving the other side advice. But the problem now seems a bit more grave — I’m moved by the seriousness of their plight. So here goes a sincere attempt to prescribe some medicine for Maine Democrats:
First, stop demonizing the rich.
It’s incredibly hypocritical to vilify the wealthy when your political party apparatus is a subsidized tool of billionaire S. Donald Sussman, husband to the only federal official you’ve managed to elect in recent years, and millionaire Portlander Justin Alfond is the top Democrat in the State Senate.
It’s not helping you win and it is actually harming us all.
Next, you’ve got to get this environmental thing straightened out. Clearly the whole the-sky-is-falling rhetoric isn’t working, especially not when it’s paired with a set of policies explicitly designed either to retard economic growth or to give money to your green energy cronies.
Democrats should instead focus on balancing Maine’s outdoor heritage and environmental health with a growing economy.
Some of the more radical elements of the party may reject the importance of a growing economy. Heck, some might even think we’ve got 5 or 6 billion too many people on the planet. Don’t let the desire to win at any cost elevate these radical elements.
A more pragmatic environmental policy would put people first, and that means ensuring that environmental regulations accomplish their aims in a manner that is least harmful to economic (and population) growth.
Next, the Party needs to get it’s act together on welfare reform. The whole “War on the Poor” message doesn’t particularly resonate with blue-collar Mainers who regularly see EBT purchases that seem, er, imprudent.
Democrats right now want to have their cake and eat it too. They seem to understand the significance of welfare reform as a campaign issue, but they haven’t really grasped the need for actual policies.
They’re eager to invite credit. During the campaign, they sent out a series of misleading mailers suggesting that they had supported Republican welfare bills. And now they’re endeavoring yet again to claim credit for an initiative of Commissioner Mary Mayhew’s DHHS.
Rather than try to fool voters, Democrats should look to Bill Clinton for inspiration. He joined forces with then-Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich to advance significant welfare reforms.
It’s obvious why Democrats did not cooperate with welfare reform before the election — they didn’t want to give the Governor a victory to campaign on. But while he’s not running another campaign (at least not at the state level), many Democrats are. And they would certainly benefit from being a part of real welfare reform.
After all, if Speaker Eves is comfortable claiming credit for things Mayhew and LePage have done, why can’t he help them do it?
Very smart of you Steve. You know they’ll never do anything you or the MHPC suggest. We’ll get the House next time for sure.
Well said, Steve Robinson… The ol’ saw, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation” applies here. Nationally, the Democrats have lost their moral high ground by insisting on an inalienable right to kill 7-pound unborn babies, revealing a hatred for Israel, attacking Christians while appeasing muslims, taking away light bulbs and threatening woodstoves while preventing real energy production and chasing unicorn-based energy, demonizing success while cultivating failure, propping up unqualified officeholders while using their bodyguards in the media to squash highly-qualified opponents… sheesh! It’s hard to find an issue that the post-modern Democrat [and too many Republicans] isn’t diametrically wrong on…
Brilliant!! I’m confident that the JFK Democrat would agree also. However the Justin Allfond socialist……. well, they are indeed becoming less than relevant Bout Time!! Great Job Steve!!
Eves, lately, has shown some evidence that he recognizes that Dems are out of touch with ordinary Mainers of both parties. This is especially true on issues like taxation, welfare, immigration, education and firearms.
Unfortunately (or, fortunately, depending on the way you view it) the extreme left of the party has become so hostile to compromise or debate that Eves, by himself, will not be able to save them from another disaster in 2016.
One only has to view on line commentary from leftists on the Portland Press Herald or the Bangor Daily News to see the constant river of invective directed at all conservative voices. Until the party can effectively ostracize or marginalize the ugliness of their more extreme partisans, the party will slip further into irrelevance. BTW, until the censors at the PPH and BDN start policing the comment streams more fairly, all the outrageous leftist hatred that stays posted while conservative thoughts are “disappeared” is what will continue to define Democrats.
Steve,I can just hear the Dem. response to your piece: No body likes a smart ass.
Me? You nailed it!
The cycle continues. For the foreseeable future in Maine and nationally the Republicans will be in the majority. They’ll wear out their welcome and the Democrats will return. The Democrats will lose favor and the Republicans will get another shot. It will go on and on — to think otherwise is naive.
Under the guises of conservative and liberal ideologies, it is money and power that drives the political process. Voters are merely pawns played against each other on a chess board that stretches from California to Maine. Sound bites — welfare, deficit, immigration, and healthcare. School ground name calling — it’s the liberals, it’s the teabaggers. All used to inflame collective passions of party members.
The 24 hour media’s bombardment of shootings, natural disasters, terrorists, pandemics is leveraged to generate a constant state of fear. It is the other parties fault, but elect us and we’ll keep you safe. As former National Rifle Association (NRA) chief Ray Arnet once said, “You keep any special interest group alive by nurturing the crisis atmosphere.”
In her essay “On the Abolition of Political Parties” written more than seventy-five years ago, Simone Weil asks the question. “Do political parties contain enough good to compensate for their evils and make their preservation desirable?”
Ms. Weil states that decisions by a political party should be based on truth, justice, and the public interest. She challenges the possibility of such criteria being followed because of as she describes a political party’s characteristics.
1. A machine to generate collective passions.
2. An organization designed to exert collective pressure upon the minds of all its individuals.
3. Ultimate goal is its own growth without limits.
We see daily what Ms. Weil observed seven decades ago — “partisan spirit makes people blind, makes them deaf to justice, pushes decent men cruelly to persecute innocent targets.”
Collective pressure as described in her essay “occurs through propaganda which is used to condition and persuade, not inform.” In Ms. Weil’s day it was pamphlets, periodicals, and newspapers. Today we have TV, radio, and social media. “Nothing is more comfortable than not having to think” states Ms. Weil – “instead of thinking, people are for or against.” Imagine her reaction to our present day world of sound bites and generalities. Further “all parties must use propaganda because the others do in order to survive.” And today all parties must solicit campaign funds, because the others do to survive.
Political parties will not change, we must change. Is it time to replace the Republican and Democratic parties with an alternative that supports “truth, justice, and the public interest”?