After my column last week in which I called out 1st District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for skipping this year’s Maine Lobster Festival, both my parents scolded me in separate communications. My mother said “that’s enough,” and my father said it was “gratuitous.” I don’t believe I’ve ever met Rep. Pingree, but I’m sure she is a very nice woman.

Still, come November, it will be time for her to retire and hand her seat over to someone with fresh energy. My reason for saying so is simple. I can’t get over the sense that Pingree is, in essence, “quiet quitting.” This is a new term for me, and one of the world’s best-known sociological research firms describes it as follows:

“Many quiet quitters fit Gallup’s definition of being ‘not engaged’ at work — people who do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job. This describes half of the U.S. workforce.”

If half of our country’s labor pool is indeed quiet quitting, then Pingree does have a constituency, to be sure. But rather than normalize “blah,” it’s time to elect a government that works as hard as the other half of Americans. As I wrote last week, our lobster industry is under existential threat. Inflation is also destroying the quality of life for hundreds of millions of Americans — and most Mainers — while distrust of our system and institutions is peaking like never before.

Like the city of Portland, which moved the homeless tent city out of Deering Oaks Park last week so Paul LePage couldn’t use it as a backdrop for a press conference, Congress is merely flicking at our serious problems, if acknowledging them at all. Its last two sessions have seemed dedicated almost entirely to theater.

A few weeks ago, I received a postcard from Pingree (as did everyone else in the district). It hailed the so-called Inflation Reduction Act as a bold and visionary source of support for struggling Americans. I’m glad she took the time to write, because if she hadn’t I might have been lulled into thinking it was yet another pile-on of pork barrel projects and dubious spending that my son and his children will be paying for long after I’m gone.

Prior to the postcard, I would have been hard-pressed to tell anyone what Pingree’s actually been up to down there. She ranks in the top fifth of House members making use of the voting by a proxy mechanism that has been more prevalent since the COVID-19 pandemic — and has just been extended even though President Biden recently announced we’re now well over the virus’ hump.

Pingree did write an op-ed around the time of the postcard entitled “Dirigo,” which more or less laid out her case for reelection. Her litany of reasons began with the Maine Rx bill she spearheaded as state Senate majority leader nearly two decades ago. Judging by how few signature initiatives she’s spearheaded since 2009, the last 13 years in Congress have sort of been a blur. Other than a de rigeur mention of climate change and leadership’s talking points about the so-called Inflation Reduction Act, it is difficult to take from this piece a single major achievement. There is something very low energy about the whole pitch.

By contrast, her opponent has been running all over the district like an Energizer rabbit since I wrote about his candidacy more than a year ago. Retired Navy SEAL Ed Thelander came out of the gate pledging to fight for term limits and hasn’t stopped campaigning since. Throughout the summer, he has literally been swimming between lobster boats to listen to the concerns of the men and women who run them.

Then there is the structural issue. It is more than likely Republicans will take at least the House next month. If Pingree has been demure in a Democrat-led House, one can’t reasonably expect much more of her when the other side is in charge. Now more than ever, Maine needs a fighter in Washington.

In the weeks ahead, we will probably hear more about how the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, effectively turning the debate over abortion rights back to the states. At a visceral level, this angers many – especially women. There is a temptation to push back by rallying around pro-choice, female candidates.

But the fact remains that defenders of Roe dropped the ball at the federal level, so any cri de coeur about sending a message to Washington now is futile. On Pingree’s watch, Congress failed to codify Roe into federal statute. The fight now will be waged in state capitals. Congress’ role is overtaken by events.

Quiet quitting may be the new rage among the cool kids, but we in Maine cannot afford it. We need an energetic combatant in Washington when it comes to the economy, restoring faith in our institutions and addressing the increasingly real and dangerous national security concerns around the globe. However nice Chellie may be, now we really need a change in our member of Congress.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.