The Maine Republican Party recently passed up an opportunity to stand up for Maine immigrants and to condemn extremism. Party Executive Director Jason Savage’s complaints about the ‘political’ nature of Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana’s statement condemning hate and intolerance (“Maine Republicans accuse Portland schools chief of politicizing alleged hate crime”) betray a sad truth: People who speak out forcefully against bigotry are assumed to be promoting a Democratic agenda.

Botana’s letter did not discuss party politics, push his viewpoint on students, or promote a left-wing agenda. He did speak out against recent government actions and political rhetoric that pose a palpable threat to the many immigrants in our community, including children in Portland’s schools. He did act in accordance with the mission of Portland Schools, which “celebrates and partners with the diverse culture of our community,” by asserting that all students are welcome in the city’s classrooms. And Botana did correctly point out that “rhetoric accompanying these actions represents a radical and disturbing departure from the principles on which this country was built.”

Make no mistake: There are extremist policies being put in place, policies which many in the Republican Party itself condemn as overly broad and counterproductive. Yet when Savage and his party were given the chance to stay true to traditional Republican values while simultaneously rejecting, in no uncertain terms, xenophobic rhetoric and an agenda that has engendered fear in many people across this nation, they instead complained about the school department’s “partisan agenda” – and even are seeking an investigation of Botana’s motives.

We’re hearing many voices stand up for the well-being and inclusion of all Portland students – including the students themselves. It’s a shame our state Republican Party is missing this chance to add its voice, and to demonstrate that rejecting hate and intolerance is not a partisan issue – it’s just what good people do.

David Parr