Saturday, March 8, 2014
By BEN GRANT
In their recent columns, both Greg Kesich and Alan Caron laid the outcome of the U.S. Senate race at the feet of the Democrats by urging U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill to step aside in order for Angus King to win.
I have one question for Greg Kesich and Alan Caron: What if Angus King decides to caucus with Mitch McConnell and the Republicans?
I'm serious. How do you think the people who voted for him will react?
The recent public poll showed that 64 percent of his supporters want him to caucus with Harry Reid and the Democrats, and 9 percent want him to caucus with McConnell.
Now, the Kesich-Caron response is that, of course, (wink, wink) King is going to caucus with the Democrats.
But, here's the thing: Everyone maintaining this position is, by inference, assuming that King is spending this whole campaign lying through his teeth about his true intentions.
He says he doesn't plan to caucus with anyone or that he hasn't decided.
I'm choosing to believe that he's telling the truth, and that caucusing with the Republicans is a legitimate consideration for him.
That alone is a disqualifier for me and many Democrats.
Look, individual candidates don't get to decide what an election is about.
No amount of lectures about the two-party system will change the fact that the country is in a precarious place right now, both economically and abroad.
Voters are mostly concerned with the jobs picture and health care costs.
These are the facts.
But Angus King is not running a campaign about those issues.
That, more than anything else, is why he has fallen in the polls.
True, his ads fall flat and are rather outdated and his response to the Republican attacks has been to whine louder.
But that's not why his numbers are in reverse.
No, the problem is that his campaign is about the business and process of politics itself, and not about the health and security of the citizenry.
He has yet to explain to Maine voters what his vision is for the future and how he is going to get people back to work and put money in working and middle-class Mainers' pockets.
If Kesich and Caron really want to ensure that King wins this U.S. Senate race, they should write a follow-up column that urges King to run a more relevant campaign that matches the kitchen-table seriousness of the moment.
We need a senator, not a political savior.
In the meantime, Kesich and Caron reignited a battle that the Democratic Party is no longer willing to sit out.
There's a reason why Democrats stuck with Mitchell and are sticking with Dill now, and it has nothing to do with blind tribalism or partisanship.
The Cutlers and Carons of the world want us to believe that loyalty to party comes first, but that is simply not true.
I'll speak for myself, though I think my feelings are reflected throughout our party: I am a Democrat because of my values, and not the reverse.
In other words, I believe in the right of every child to get a good public education.
I believe that every person deserves the dignity of a voice in the workplace.
I believe in a woman's right to control her own health decisions.
I believe in the right of every person to marry the person they love.
I believe in a capitalism that is regulated enough to protect consumers and the environment, but not so much that businesses cannot thrive.
I believe it is a moral imperative for us to care for those among us in the shadows of life.
I wasn't assigned these values when I registered as a Democrat.
I registered as a Democrat because I already had these values, and that makes all the difference.
So, when I -- and many Democrats -- look at Eliot Cutler or Angus King, we have to decide if they share enough of our values to make them a better alternative to the Republicans.
Cutler failed that test in 2010 for many, in particular when he compared the NEA to George Wallace.
King has failed that test -- so far -- in 2012 because of his flirtation with Mitch McConnell. We are more than a pro-choice, pro-marriage party (of course, we are thrilled to be those things, too!), and we share many of those "other" values with a majority of Maine people.
And that, in the end, is the only measure that matters when we walk into the voting booth.
Rest assured, the Maine Democratic Party is here to stay. The Democratic nominee for president is about to win this state for the sixth presidential election in a row, and we are poised to regain the state house.
We are also solid in our values and proud to both promote them from the grassroots and to support candidates who share them.
Cynthia Dill shares those values, and she is our candidate. If Angus King wants more Democratic support, it's not we who need to change.
Ben Grant is chairman of the Maine Democratic Party.
This story was updated at 8:17 a.m. on Friday September 28, 2012 to correct the name of the writer.