The two faces of politics

By Reade Brower | Feb 15, 2018

As the political race for governor heats up, many look for ideological separation when deciding which candidates support our values.

As an  unenrolled (Independent) voter, the primaries allow me to decide which party to temporarily enroll in, going back to Independent for the general election. To that end, it is interesting to study both Democratic and Republican candidates.

There are fine people on both sides of the aisle; what I’m looking for is someone to the near right or near left of center that best represents my values; someone who will work across the aisle in a bipartisan way. I want someone who will move us forward respectfully. I want someone who is a listener. I want someone ruled by love.

This does not seem like an impossible ask; many of the candidates I have met or read about fit this mold. Are they electable in the general election, or will we stay with bullies and fearmongers, hell-bent on their own agendas and serving their bases, rather than all of the people?

Recent state politics include the surprise 4 a.m. shuttering of a Machiasport prison, Washington County’s Downeast Correctional Facility, despite repeated votes by our legislators to keep it open. One might argue it was more of a raid than a transparent decision, as Gov. Paul LePage claimed. His spokesperson, Peter Steele, said LePage is transparent and this is something he’s supported throughout his tenure. That’s partly true; LePage has been outspoken about closing the facility, but it isn’t transparent when you sneak in and tender immediate dismissals to 31 people, hauling off about 60 prisoners, some in the middle of their work shifts (they were on work-release), without due process from legislators or the people. This decision left the employers of these inmates in the lurch, with no notice.

Steele’s assertion that as chief executive it is LePage’s duty not to waste taxpayer money is a good point. What is missing is due process and understanding that proper procedure is the glue keeping government functioning; acting unilaterally is not how our system is built, we are a government of the people, for the people. Though the people elected LePage, they also elected state senators and house representatives to give balance to unilateral control for LePage, or any governor. Steele’s assertion that "this is a management question," rather than “a legislative one” holds no water in a ship with a hole in the bottom that ignores the recent overwhelming bipartisan vote to fund the prison for two years.

The same holds true on the national level. Recently, President Donald Trump trumpeted transparency when he declassified the Nunes memo. Then, after initially indicating he would, he refused to do the same for the Democratic response, claiming sensitive information in it would compromise our safety.

The hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren't so sad; both parties, especially the far right and left of center, practice it and it seems inbred, getting worse with every generation.

Maine independent Sen. Angus King wrote an op-ed column; “The Common Sense Coalition and the future of the Senate.” In it, he credits Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins with being one of the champions for the Republicans in creating a safe haven for bipartisanship – King says her office is now playfully called "Little Switzerland"; it helps provide a way out of the gridlock our government induced upon itself. King's last paragraph is hopeful; “Our unofficial membership is 25 senators; I hope it will continue to grow and we can simply refer to the Common Sense Coalition as ‘the United States Senate."

We start by embracing transparency, not just parading it out when it suits one's purpose.

It begins and ends with truth-telling, keeping “spin” to a reasonable level. To that end, having Trump testify in front of Special Counsel Robert Mueller will move the investigation into Russian interference so we can go on with more important issues; something most Americans agree we need to do.

Moving the agenda forward; solving health care and immigration challenges, putting resources into infrastructure, and making sure our military is based on 2018 can all be achieved through common sense and working together.

Not only can we insist upon it, we can vote by rejecting those from both parties who are so far right or so far left that they can’t see the middle. It is time for the middle to rule; if we allow ourselves to be conquered by division, rather than unified in pursuit of functioning government, we will continue to be defined by the insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

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“When all’s said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it.”

--- Charles de Lint, writer (b. 1951)

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