What if Maine Democrats had a plan?
Or even a clue?
With a realistic platform that appealed to ordinary voters, the donkey party would have an excellent chance in next year’s elections of … uh … losing control of the Legislature. And the race for governor. And U.S. Senate. And the 2nd Congressional District.
The reason is simple: The Democratic Party in Maine doesn’t dare stand for anything practical. A pragmatic electorate recognizes that deficiency and votes for Republicans and independents who display some slight grasp of the problems the public faces.
To be fair to the Dems (just for the sheer novelty), the party did try last year to develop something that approximated a vision of a blueprint of a framework for a prototype of a plan. It was called “A Better State of Maine,” and it involved selling the one we have now and buying a newer model with all the bells and whistles, as well as a lifetime warranty.
I could have that wrong. After perusing the document and examining the comments made by Democratic leaders at public forums they held to promote it, it doesn’t actually call for doing anything that drastic. In fact, it doesn’t call for doing anything at all.
For instance, then-House Speaker Mark Eves, now a candidate for governor, explained the section on economic development this way: “We have heard over and over again about the need for a skilled, trained workforce that is aligned with the needs that we have.”
Seriously? That’s it?
Of course not. Current House Speaker Sara Gideon added this clarifying comment: “We need solutions that help young families build their lives in Maine and that revitalize our economy.”
And what would those solutions be?
There’s more of this drivel, such as an energy policy (it needs to be cheaper and more sustainable), infrastructure (we probably ought to keep it from crumbling away) and high-speed internet access (someday, somehow). There are fewer specifics in this document than cheeseburgers at a vegan festival.
That’s because Democratic leaders fear that if they put in writing what they really intend to do — expand government, increase taxes — the public would run them out of the state.
Some individual Democrats have specific ideas for addressing issues. Trouble is, lots of those ideas are somewhere between unrealistic and unworkable. Recently, three legislative candidates in southern Maine told me they support a single-payer health care plan. Asked how they’ll pay for that, they all agreed they’d raise taxes on the wealthy. The three-percent surcharge on higher incomes that was approved in referendum last year would have generated about $250 million a year. The cheapest estimate for universal coverage in the state is about $3 billion. So that surcharge would have to be increased by a factor of 12, making it a 36 percent tax hike on the wealthy.
All of whom would be leaving the state long before that money grab could take effect.
Looking at voter registrations, it might be reasonable to assume that after next year’s elections, Democrats would control of both chambers of the Legislature. Those numbers indicate Dems should have a 15-seat majority in the House and a three or four seat margin in the Senate. But registrations are a poor predictor of outcomes. The only safe Democratic districts are concentrated around Portland, Bangor, parts of the mid-coast and a few other scattered areas. In rural parts of the state, there may be plenty of registered Democrats, but they’re increasingly likely to vote for Republicans.
As a result of this indifference to party affiliation, Democrats could lose control of the Maine House by as many as five seats. The GOP will likely enjoy a four-seat majority in the Senate. When voters are asked why they made those decisions, they’ll say they just couldn’t figure out where the Dems stood on issues that mattered to them, and while they didn’t agree with Republicans on everything, they at least knew their positions.
The only hope Democrats have is that once the GOP is in firm control, they’ll do what they always do when they hold majorities:
At which point, the Dems will return to power without ever having to take a stand on anything.