In an apparent frenzy of devotion to former President Donald Trump, Republican committees and politicians across the United States have lately been excoriating their own for speaking their minds and voting their consciences. This was particularly notable following the U.S. House of Representatives' vote to impeach Trump for a second time and again after seven Republican U.S. senators voted with Democrats to convict him for inciting the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Waldo County, we learned with regret last week, is not immune to what appears to be either a mass hysteria or the pull of a cult of personality surrounding Trump and others like him. Shortly before Christmas, the Waldo County Republican Committee passed a resolution banning two Republican former state senators, Roger Katz of Augusta and Kevin Raye of Eastport, from running for office as Republicans. The resolution was posted on the committee's Facebook page Jan. 15. Their crime? Writing an opinion piece last fall for the Bangor Daily News explaining why they were going to vote for Democrat Joe Biden for president, rather than for Trump.

Neither man has any plans to run for office again, and both dismissed the actions of the Waldo County committee as risible. However, both also said, and we agree, that such behavior is no way to attract new members to a party that used to want to be a big tent. Now, one of them told us, he thinks there are some in the GOP who won't be happy until the party is as small as possible. To us, that sounds more like a cult than a political party.

It is also abhorrent to us, and to our notion of democracy, to punish people merely for expressing a political opinion. Katz and Raye did not advocate violence or express hatred toward anyone. They did not call names, put forth any conspiracy theories or espouse any falsehoods. They simply had the temerity to say they did not support Trump for president, believing that Biden offered the country steadier leadership and a step back from the heated rhetoric and fierce divisions of the Trump years.

We lament with Katz and Raye the shrinking and narrowing of the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt into its current form, focused on personality and grievance rather than principle and working together, even in the face of strong differences over policy. The willingness to cut off members who depart from strict party orthodoxy and loyalty is not, we believe, in the long-term interest either of Republicans or the country in general.

We agree with Raye, who told us that those who are now throwing stones are on the wrong side of history. We hope that history will right itself sooner rather than later.


This day in history

Feb. 18, 1885

Mark Twain publishes his famous — and famously controversial — novel "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

Twain (the pen name of Samuel Clemens) first introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Though Twain saw Huck’s story as a kind of sequel to his earlier book, the new novel was far more serious, focusing on the institution of slavery and other aspects of life in the antebellum South.

The most striking part of the book is its satirical look at racism, religion and other social attitudes of the time. While Jim is strong, brave, generous and wise, many of the white characters are portrayed as violent, stupid or simply selfish, and the naive Huck ends up questioning the hypocritical, unjust nature of society in general.