Alan Caron is an accomplished Maine public policy analyst and advocate, but his Aug. 23 column (“Maine’s independence may once again be a national topic”) is wrong in asserting: “In 1955 Democrat Ed Muskie, by sheer force of personality, built the foundations of the modern Democratic Party in Maine …”

Muskie was formidable, but he did not alone or “by sheer force of personality” build the foundations of the modern Democratic Party.

In late 1953 and early 1954, Muskie, in partnership with soon-to-be party chairman Frank Coffin (later congressman and federal appeals court judge) started the building process.

First they laid the groundwork for a party platform developed through broad and open participation, and then they began recruitment of credible and attractive candidates for national and state office.

Muskie took on the gubernatorial race when others refused. He and Coffin regarded 1954 as a “building year” and were, as Caron suggested, surprised when Muskie won.

They continued recruiting, encouraging and supporting additional rank and file and other leaders in the Democratic Party, who in turn achieved majority status.

Muskie and Coffin were committed to a responsive and responsible party, involving a broad spectrum of citizens and interests.

Both men supported healthy political competition, carried out through civil discourse. It was as a result of their initiative, incidentally, that the “big box” was removed from the ballot.

Both practiced the art of political compromise, not aiming for some mythical middle, but pushing toward clear goals while negotiating the ways and means to achieve objectives that had won majority support.

Caron is right in general about today’s political organization options, although he overstates ideological factors and curiously omits any reference to the impact of campaign finances and the media.

I suggest that the Muskie-Coffin model is relevant and valid for real reform in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Don Nicoll of Portland was executive secretary of the Maine Democratic Party from 1954 to 1956, and then was administrative assistant to U.S. Rep. Frank Coffin and Sen. Edmund S. Muskie.