Inspired by reports that Democrats were so foolish and misguided as to be thinking of a “people’s veto” on the recent health care bill, this week the Honorable Lucius Flatley led a spirited discussion at the coffee shop for advice to Maine Democrats. The results are summarized below:

• Quit your bellyaching. Cease caterwauling. Stop the mean-spirited attacks. Cut out the knee-jerk critical press releases. You lost. Get over it. Give credit where credit is due. Some of the 25-year-old nests in Augusta needed airing out. The Maine Turnpike has been an open sewer for years. The Land Use Regulation Commission is an artifact that has come to exemplify heavy-handed bureaucracy. It certainly can stand review.

• Be restrained, moderate in opinions and criticisms – even good humored or gentlemanly. Down Easters prefer understatement and lack of bombast. Successful Maine Democrats have been mostly people of restraint and good humor. Remember, Portland ideas may not be the “flavor of the day” in Millinocket, Madison or Meddybemps.

• Be not hostage to special interests. The Wisconsin public union battle is of only peripheral concern to most Maine voters. Nor, on the other hand, are guns and the NRA a burning interest to any other than wannabe Marshal Mat Dillons.

• Democratic leadership should spend time in finding and nurturing legislative candidates – a leadership function notable for its absence the last few years. Keep in touch. One personal handshake is worth five street signs. One good candidate is worth 50 press releases.

• The recent victory of Cynthia Dill in South Portland is hailed by many Democrats as a political revamping. She surely deserved the victory, but her win was not fully a vindication of progressives – nor was it a rejection of LePage and company. All politics is local. She won in large part because the Republicans offered a sacrificial lamb who was burdened with a questionable businesses history – and who took a vacation during campaign time.

Last year Libby Mitchell was cursed with a deep-pocketed liberal challenger, and saddled with pernicious party spokespersons who prostituted the election with foul attacks on her opponents. This created confusion as to her own attitude and left an unpleasant taste. Libby was everything Democrats would like to see in a governor – highly intelligent, impeccably honest, energetic and philosophically in tune with the ideals that have kept the Democrats dominant in Maine for a generation. But, other than as filler on the ticket for the U.S. Senate 25 years ago, her campaigns had been among people who mostly knew her personally. Statewide, the voters saw a 70-year-old woman with a trace accent of “being from away” – one whose most recent political accomplishment was failure to pass a controversial proposal for paid pregnancy leave. If you knew Libby, you loved her. But most voters didn’t know her, and she never became identified with anything other than “more of the same.”

• Having a clear theme attracts attention, inspires interest. The Republican motto was well known – cut taxes, screw the environment, disregard education, ignore the needy – a program shortsighted, irresponsible and unwise. But it is visible and appeals to a large minority. Republicans didn’t win as long as they spent their time complaining about John Martin. Only when they started having ideas, setting out how they would govern and, above all, finding candidates, did they gain traction.

The Democrats lost the governors’ race because of a rich carpetbagger. They lost the Legislature through inattention and sloth. Remember that Maine’s DNA contains a strain of vexation with authority that express itself in the ducking booth at the county fair. Mr. LePage personifies that frame of mind. When the Democrats howl and threaten a “people’s veto” over a vote they lost, they kick a sleeping dog.

Reasonable, fair-minded Republicans have become hostage to the wingnuts. The Sewalls, Hildreths, Monks, Hubers and Katzes approve of the new governor about as much as the Democrats. Allow those folks time to re-establish sanity in the Grand Old Party.

The actions of Mr. LePage and company speak for themselves. Give them enough rope and they will hang themselves.

Devil’s Dictionary ?quote of the week

White superiority: The fond dream of those whose existence is the strongest evidence against it.

Rodney Quinn, a former Maine secretary of state, lives in Gorham. He can be reached at [email protected]


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