In her most recent public speaking opportunity since she told her supporters to “storm the capitol” on Juneteenth, Maine House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) blasted “liberal Democrat white women” for prioritizing niche LGBT issues over her preferred race-related issues.
In racially charged remarks at Bates College in Lewiston on Thursday, Talbot Ross complained that Maine Democrats and the media “demonize” her for fighting for racial justice and use racial minorities as “talking points” to advance a white liberal agenda.
“I applaud and I admire, and think it serves as a model, that the state legislature made extraordinary advances in LGBTQ rights, extraordinary,” said Speaker Talbot Ross. “We should be proud of that work going forward.”
“I just didn’t see it show up for racial justice,” she said. “I just didn’t see it show up. And it’s not a blame. It’s a reality check. That you cannot say it’s intersectional if really what you mean, in Maine, is that LGBTQ rights is a proxy for white LGBTQ. You can’t say that abortion care is health care if really what you’re talking about is white women. You can’t talk about gender affirming care if all you’re talking about really is a proxy for whiteness.”
Intersectionality is belief among liberals that society is divided between victims and privileged oppressors, and that the supposed victims of this hierarchy — typically racial or sexual minorities — should be unified against their oppressors — usually white men.
“If all of this work is a proxy for whiteness, if that’s true, then it is the responsibility of those white people to show up and name and help and fight for the same rights for us,” said Talbot Ross. “This cannot be a proxy for whiteness.”
Talbot Ross’s comments, captured on video, came at the Maine Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Population Health Equity‘s first annual “Health Equity Conference”, which was hosted at Bates College.
In her scripted remarks, Talbot Ross mostly played it safe. But her spicier points came during the question and answer period afterward, when the visibly emotional Portland native delivered a racially charged rant about the failure of white liberal women in the Democratic Party to support her agenda.
Although Talbot Ross did not mention them by name, Gov. Mills and Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) are both white liberal Democrats, though Jackson doesn’t identify as a woman.
Talbot Ross’ remarks were at times confusing and disjointed. She suggested Democratic bills concerning abortion and sex changes would not apply to non-white Mainers, but that’s not the case. Mainers of all races can get elective late-term abortions for any reason and at any time during a pregnancy now thanks to LD 1619, and sex change treatments are available to all minors, regardless of race, thanks to several bills signed by the governor.
The racially charged rhetoric from the 3rd most powerful Democrat in Maine threatens to widen divisions in the party between moderate Democrats and the far left Portland contingent, which Talbot Ross represents.
The comments also come near the end of a legislative session in which Talbot Ross was criticized — usually privately — for her management of legislative business in the House.
Although Talbot Ross entered her leadership role pledging to find “common ground” among lawmakers, she struggled to garner support for her top priorities.
Several of her key bills, including the tribal sovereignty bill desired by Maine’s Wabanaki tribes and a bill to extend Medicaid benefits to Maine residents who are not U.S. citizens, failed despite Democratic control of the legislature and a Democratic governor.
In her remarks Thursday, the Speaker laid the blame for those failures at the feet of liberal whites in her party.
The Maine House and Senate, including almost all white Democrats and many Republicans, approved Talbot Ross’s tribal sovereignty bill, but the bill did not receive enough support to override Gov. Mills veto.
“One thing that was really difficult, and as we’re speaking I was getting emotional about it, was to realize that me and people who look like me are actually talking points,” said Talbot Ross. “That’s about it. We were talking points.”
“There was press conference after press conference for major, major social change. Good work. And none of us were there. Yet we were one of the key talking points. For lots of legislation. Lots of bills. Sponsored by white allies. It was astounding — it just hit me so profoundly. That we’ve moved to the place where now we’re the talking point. And I was not just hurt by it personally, but I became offended by it,” she said.
“And it started to show up in my work. I was really offended that black women, women of color, were being used as talking points for bills that they were not, had not voice in. And, yes, there would be an eventual benefit — I know that that’s true — but it mattered that they weren’t included. It mattered that is was white women — liberal, Democrat white women — moving this work forward,” she said.
Talbot Ross said Democratic leaders were afraid to say “our name” for fear of losing elections. Presumably, she meant the names of black people, though she didn’t specify.
The Speaker’s bill to give illegal aliens Medicaid benefits died without fanfare after the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected a watered-down version of the proposal.
Talbot Ross, more so than any other Democrat, was willing to publicly feud with Mills over the governor’s reluctance to embrace a far left agenda. But that approach proved unsuccessful at getting the governor to budge.
“In a time when we elect people under the umbrella of the Democratic Party, and we are–have a trifecta, that those exact same people can’t say our name or it will cost them the election that brought them there in the first place– that we helped vote them in. So we’re voting in people who then tell us it’s a risk to talk about us and our health conditions, as if they won’t get elected. You tell me: How smart is that? We’re electing people who say, ‘I still can’t talk about you,'” said Talbot Ross.
Talbot Ross then said that people in her own party and the Maine news media “demonize” her for talking about racial issues.
In fact, Talbot Ross was the recipient of mostly fawning coverage from Maine’s liberal media outlets, owing in part to her historic status as the first African-American House Speaker in Maine history.
Her legislative initiatives in the 131st State Legislature typically found favor among reporters and editorialists in the state. When she committed obvious mistakes, the press was happy to look the other way.
When she told supporters at a Juneteenth event that they should “storm the capitol” over the Maine Department of Education’s failure to properly teach children about slavery, black history, and indigenous history, the Maine news media — apart from the Maine Wire — did not report on it.
The liberal Masthead Media newspapers did not cover her remarks at all. Neither did the taxpayer-subsidized Maine Public outlet.
A Spectrum reporter who was in attendance for the event and heard the remarks reported at length about Talbot Ross’s speech, but she for some reason declined to quote the most sensational parts.
The Bangor Daily News did not cover it as a news story, but instead ran a confused editorial that was less of a journalistic inquiry or an original thought and more of a press release for the Speaker.
In that editorial, the Bangor paper’s editorial board gave a sympathetic platform to Mary Erin-Casale, a Bernstein Shur project manager who has been moonlighting as a staffer to Talbot Ross, who attempted to explain away her boss’s Trumpian call to storm the State House.
“Looking forward, she plans on both apologizing for her choice in language and engaging with DOE directly for an improved outcome,” Erin-Casale told her fellow liberals on the editorial board.
As of this writing, Talbot Ross has not apologized for her MAGA-esque plea that her supporters storm the capitol.