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Trumping the Monument

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The National Monument Tango and the Presidential Primaries have combined to create a surreal mix of reality show, drama and fantasy.  It’s a depressing but addictive political and cultural opioid.

North Woods Law

It is a foregone conclusion that President Obama will designate the Quimby holdings as a national monument sometime after the November election. President Obama has frequently demonstrated his willingness to use- and push- executive power. There is ample precedent for such environmental policy- the Atlantic salmon endangered species listing was announced by the Clinton administration in exactly that manner after Bush-Gore in 2000.

House of Cards

Our Congressional delegation has been maneuvering to support, oppose and/or negotiate the national monument designation. Representatives Pingree (D-1) and Poliquin (R-2) reflect the positions of their parties, districts and challengers. Senators King (I) and Collins(R) are not park supporters, but they are not opponents either. Both have long touted their green credentials. Neither will be on the ballot again till 2018 at the earliest. Their principal objective is to negotiate the best terms of surrender possible and not get blamed for it. They might make a cluck or two on the Senate floor after President Obama signs the monument order, but it’s more likely that they call a lightning community forum at USM where only park/monument supporters are on the stage.

Governor LePage has a bill in to reverse property transfers if there is a federal monument designation. It is at least something, and a bipartisan effort at that. The bill has the virtue of increasing transparency, showing voters where their representatives stand. Its prospects in the legislature, and in the federal courts if it comes to that, are not promising.

The Apprentice

Governor LePage has played another long shot as well: he endorsed Donald Trump, the likely Republican Presidential nominee. Mr. Trump and Governor LePage are similarly outspoken and politically incorrect. Prior to endorsing him, LePage had stated he was “not a big fan” of Trump, which is not an uncommon response from limited government constitution minded voters. But a long shot is better than no shot. Mr. Trump has picked up the class warfare card tossed out by the left and turned it around, galvanizing frustrated voters against the political class. Governor LePage has experience at that card table.

Game of Thrones

Both Maine caucuses showed the power and limits of parties, principles, fear, mistrust and anger. Fear of Trump fueled Cruz’s victory; a lack of trust in Secretary Clinton fueled Senator Sanders. Both frontrunners have extremely high negatives, which bodes well for the media, if not for the country.

If Hillary Clinton is not indicted and she wins the election, the Monument is a done deal and Angus and Susan can negotiate the Park Treaty. Maybe one of the concessions is the 2nd District gets to continue to exist regardless of the 2020 census results. That would probably make Emily Cain happy.

If Donald Trump wins the election, he might take the counsel of his loyal bannerman Governor LePage and try to reverse Obama’s order, but federal ownership and control is not easily undone. If President Trump has the same relationship with Congress that Governor LePage has with the Maine legislature, legislative fixes seem unlikely. President Trump is likely to use executive power as much if not more than President Obama.

In 2018, Senator King will be challenged, probably by Governor LePage and a Democrat to be named later. Senator Collins will almost certainly be running for the Blaine House. A President Clinton will have appointed at least 2 Supreme Court Justices, who may be ruling on several challenges to the Thoreau/Quimby National Monument. A President Trump will…well, it’s not clear what President Trump might be doing. It doesn’t seem likely it would involve limited government and less crony capitalism, but whatever it is, it will be terrific, strong, beautiful and yuuge. Next season will be great.

About Jonathan Reisman

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. He speaks for himself.

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