If you were to rely just on University of Maine political science professor Amy Fried’s take, you could safely assume that the Maine Republican Party has recently been taken over by extremists and zealots given to conspiracy theories and wild overstatement, according to her Valentine’s Day blog for the Bangor Daily News.
“The takeover of the Maine GOP leadership by MAGA forces marks a further break with Maine’s already eroded civil, moderate Republican legacy,” the former chair of political science faculty at Orono opined, adding “Republicans who disagree but stay silent — rather than actively countering — are complicit with conspiracy theorists and culture warriors.”
Taking aim not only at newly-elected state GOP chair Joel Stetkis, Fried also invoked his one-time competitor and later supporter Rep. Heidi Sampson (R-Alfred) as proof of her claim that Maine Republicans, dented by last fall’s mid-term disappointment, have resorted to “selecting leaders who espouse conspiracies, compare vaccines to Nazi war crimes and push culture war issues.”
As the smart people say, there’s a lot to unpack here.
With messaging consistent from central command, Fried is determined to apply the MAGA extremist label to any Republican who doesn’t begin every sentence with the words “I’m sorry.” To that she adds the damning fact that Sampson and Stetkis are skeptical about the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to recent news reports, there has been a recent 30-percent spike in deaths among 25-44 year-old Americans by heart attack, which is as troubling as conflicting stories coming out of the Center for Disease Control about the virus and how to prevent it over the last year.
If the American establishment’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was indeed as glorious and unassailable as its defenders insist, why did The Atlantic propose an “amnesty” for any mistakes that occurred?
Stetkis, and Sampson, Fried charges, have compared the U.S. government’s roll-out of its vaccine mandates to the policies of Nazi Germany, which in addition to massacring over six million Jews during the Holocaust also carried out forced sterilizations and cruel human experiments. If invoking the Nazis is proof of extremism, what can be said of those Americans who began calling Donald Trump a Nazi as soon as he rode down that elevator in Trump Tower?
“Godwin’s Law” holds that these comparisons rarely lead anywhere thoughtful.
Then Stetkis blamed the wrong people for January 6th, Fried asserts, citing contemporaneous Facebook posts in which he allegedly said the violence came from the Antifa lot, or leftists, not the MAGA crowd that had assembled to hear Trump speak that day. In the twenty-five months since that day, a lot of people have said a of things – in fact the last Congress spent over a year on its January 6th select committee, which hammered out the official narrative of the events.
What Fried’s insightful and original piece does not address – despite its repeated references to MaineWire reporting – is the real reason Stetkis defeated incumbent GOP chair Demi Kouzounas with help from Sampson. Maine Republicans want to re-tool their party into one capable of winning elections again and giving voice to the citizens of the state hit hardest by the COVID lockdowns and worsening economy since 2020.
A carpenter from Canaan, Stetkis may know less about the ivory tower than Fried. But his professional history suggests he knows how to build things. While labeling your opponent before they can label themselves is familiar tactic for partisan actors, is it a fitting one for an academic, even one who gets by teaching just one class a semester?
Name-calling Republicans as racists, Nazis, extremists and insurrectionists is old hat for Fried. When she chaired the political science department in 2019, Fried declined to be a faculty sponsor for the College Republicans, which led to their de-listing as a student club. At the time, Fried pointed to some unfortunate comments made by one member as justifying why the opposition party’s college branch was not fit to exist on campus. Apparently old habits die hard.
But then again maybe, because, well, you know, Trump, none of that really matters.