AUGUSTA – We regret that columnist M.D. Harmon was so dismissive of OneMaine in his column Sept. 23. Mr. Harmon aligned himself with a partisan infrastructure that increasingly is fueled by special interest money, intractable party leaders and cheer-leading pundits.

Thousands of Mainers have had enough of the take-no-prisoners politics that is crippling America and Maine. With OneMaine we are heading in a different direction.

OneMaine is a new political organization — not a party — that will provide a home and a voice to those of us who believe that both our leaders and our government need to be characterized by civility and compromise if we expect our roads to be paved, our kids to be educated and our economy to grow again.

We are fed up with extremism, petty politics and government gridlock. We think that the more blatantly and cynically political the process, the less well it serves the public interest. We are Republicans, Democrats and independents. Some of us are proud to call ourselves moderates or even “radical centrists.”

We agree on some issues and disagree on others. No one in OneMaine asked us to check our principles and beliefs at the door, and we have no intention of doing so, even — or perhaps especially — when we differ.

But we aren’t in politics for the sport. We believe that our community, the Maine we love, is a shared enterprise, and we believe that the political process remains the best way to solve our common problems.

To do that, we are willing to meet in the middle and set aside concerns over who gets credit or wins a partisan advantage. What is most regrettable about Mr. Harmon’s take on public life is his suggestion that people who participate in the political process must choose between commitments to strongly-held beliefs and principles, on the one hand, and to comity and a willingness to listen and to compromise with people with whom we disagree, on the other hand.

Asserting that a Sophie’s choice between principle and compromise has characterized our politics forever, Mr. Harmon invoked Alexander Hamilton and Andrew Jackson in defense of his argument. They must be turning in their graves. Had a similarly allergic response to compromise suffused the differences among Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Monroe, they never would have become the Founding Fathers of a great Republic whom we revere to this day. Our Constitution was the product of multiple compromises and is stronger for it.

Mr. Harmon’s objection to compromise, he writes, is that it “destroys the goals of one side or the other.” Well, yes, that can be a problem — especially for political parties whose goals and principles are (from their perspective) so deeply infused with The Truth that they brook no compromise, even when they fail to marshal broad support for those goals.

The consequences of fights to the death in Washington and Augusta have been demonstrably awful, as the phrase “hard-fought compromise” has become an oxymoron. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a distinguished conservative Republican from Utah, is facing a primary challenge from within his own Republican Party in large part because he collaborated with the late Ted Kennedy, a liberal from Massachusetts.

The partisan jockeying in the congressional debt ceiling debate was so offensive to most Americans that “ridiculous,” “disgusting” and “stupid” were the three words most frequently used by poll respondents to describe what they watched. (See, you’re not alone.)

And in Augusta, where partisan bickering actually shut down state government not so long ago, one legislator this week told us that the silly battle over congressional redistricting was just about the math.

Come on. The great paradox of American politics today is that the two major parties’ control over the political process, particularly the ways in which we choose our candidates for public office, has grown tighter and tighter at the same time that the parties have grown smaller and thinner, have drifted further and further to the right and left, and have alienated and abandoned more and more Americans.

For decades we have watched the two major political parties in America command less and less loyalty, even from their own registered adherents, as they have fought over “principles” increasingly narrow, increasingly self-serving and increasingly removed from the real-life concerns of most voters: jobs, education, health care and America’s growing economic divide.

The challenge of our lifetimes — one taken up with vigor by OneMaine — is to break the hyper-partisan death grip on Maine’s and America’s politics and actually get some things done. Join us!

– Special to The Press Herald