Ten years ago, I wrote a column for the Bangor Daily News (back when it ran actual news) entitled “The Audacity of Shenna Bellows.” At the time, she was the Democratic Party’s sacrificial lamb running for Susan Collins’ seat in the U.S. Senate and had gone to some lengths to misrepresent the centrist Republican senator’s position on abortion rights. In her decision today, by fiat, to declare Donald Trump ineligible to be on Maine’s ballot in the coming year’s presidential election, Bellows has — in essence — said to herself, the state, and the nation: “hold my beer.”
When Bellows held an eight-hour hearing last week on this question, most political observers assumed she was just posturing. But emboldened by the state of Colorado’s recent move to strike Trump from the ballot on the grounds he is ineligible because of the insurrection clause in the 14th Amendment, Bellows has made a kamikaze dive for the national klieg lights like a star-struck moth to the flame. While some on the left will call her move courageous, sensible Mainers are burying their faces in our palms at this moment. She has embarrassed us, to put it mildly.
I’ve never been a big Trump fan. This may surprise some given the fact I had to eat a felony charge in the Russia-gate imbroglio of 2017-19, but it’s a simple fact. Still, having spent a good chunk of my career promoting democracy overseas, I must say it’s stunning to see it so subverted in my own home state.
In order to be an insurrectionist, one must be convicted. Special Counsel Jack Smith may have charged Trump, and it may be true that in our lopsided courts of criminal justice in this country, prosecutors enjoy a ridiculous success ratio. But special counsels have proven to be the exception to this rule. My old pal Robert Mueller famously failed to prove Trump was installed in the White House by Russian subterfuge, despite every possible media advantage. And John Durham failed to convict two Hillary Clinton operatives of lying to the FBI about the matter despite abundant evidence they did. It is beginning to look like the U.S. Department of Justice should call the office of special counsel the house of broken toys.
That said, Trump agonists will dearly hope that the young Jack Smith is the outlier to this trend, and that he will makes his charges stick. Perhaps he will. But until he does, there is zero legal basis for disqualifying Trump from the ballot because Smith cited insurrection against the constitutional order of the United States. Thankfully in this country, one remains presumed innocent until twelve jurors conclude otherwise. And what that simply means is that Bellows has jumped the shark — if not for the first time, than in the most glaring instance of her vaunted career.
Recall that before New York City Attorney General Alvin Bragg brought campaign finance violation charges against Trump earlier this year (Hillary Clinton violated the same law when she failed to disclose her campaign’s spending on ginning up Russia-gate, yet the FEC merely fined her $100,000), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was trailing him by a just 12 points in the polls. Today, thanks to the eleventh hour array of charges that have been brought against the former president in three jurisdictions, that lead has grown to 50 points. It seems almost as though someone wants to assure Trump wins the nomination.
Someone, that is, who is not a Republican. Nice job Shenna. If you’re still around when my Maine state driver’s license comes due for renewal in 2028, I expect I’ll now have an even longer wait than I did last time.