GORHAM – Historians may well credit Eliot Cutler with the election of Paul LePage last year. While that conclusion can be argued, that it can even be considered is sufficient to give pause to any thinking voter. This year, as if that 2010 performance weren’t enough mischief, Mr. Cutler indicates future political ambition — again as an independent.

He is an intelligent, capable man, one who could be valuable to Maine. However, as a “maverick” creating a “new morality and purpose,” he is a distraction and a danger.

He desires, it is said, “to serve,” which is a fine — even noble — sentiment. But if he insists on playing in his own sandbox as an independent, it is no longer a sentiment — it is hubris. Even though hidden under the serape of “desire to serve,” being right can lead to self-entitlement. Fully developed, it becomes a cult of personality — the hallmark of immature states.

Independent candidates nourish a cult of arrogance. Even their campaigns are basically a personality pitch based on commercial sales principles — campaigns that offer the electorate little or no basis for judgment. It is like hiring an applicant by photograph without an interview.

Independents in American politics do not have a good track record. Just a decade ago, Ralph Nader, another intelligent and capable independent, skewed the Florida vote enough to give us George Bush, two wars, and the worst recession in decades.

Here in Maine, even the fine record of Angus King proves nothing more than one swallow does not a summer make. Earth’s warming is not disproved by one cold winter.

Despite the mantra of business experience as a good training ground for governing, politics and business have little in common. There are skill sets required of a governor that are not acquired by issuing IPOs, splitting stock, increasing sales, arranging a buyout or downsizing.

A business executive who is never personally exposed to public criticism, who can reward or motivate with money and bennies, and who can hire and fire at will may find himself in difficulty as a governor encountering painful personal scrutiny or discovering that he has few business management tools.

While success in business generally indicates ability, energy and good fortune, in itself it guarantees no more success in politics than fishing does farming.

Governing a democracy is a mix of idealism and practicality, leavened with cooperation. Without like-minded groups to compromise and cooperate, there is uncertainty at best and chaos at worst.

An independent candidate and his team of friends and supporters (and money) do nothing to support and elect a responsible or friendly Legislature — in fact, independents encourage resentment among party members and voters. Such division increases difficulties in governing and in policy enactment.

The tea party wingnuts in Congress are vivid examples of the independent principle run amok.

There is no doubt that the Maine Democratic Party will offer a candidate for governor in 2014. In such case, another independent split might well re-elect the incumbent. Such an outcome could be easily avoided if a runoff election were required, but with a minority governor (and a longtime minority party) in control, we are not likely to get the present law changed.

In the meantime, the greatest contribution to Maine is through a common group effort — and a political party is the best such vehicle ever invented.

The very term “independent” invokes stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise.

Before the gentleman uncases his flute and pipes the children out of town, he should consider the ancient and honorable Democratic Party.

An Eliot Cutler candidacy for governor as the choice of the Democratic Party would be splendid — a productive and promising opportunity for Maine.

– Special to the Press Herald