Politics & Other Mistakes: Acronyms and eccentrics

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Odds and ends from my inbox. Mostly odds.

Go with Joe: Maine’s congressional delegation backs President Biden’s agenda most of the time. But the term “most” is a little misleading. According to FiveThirtyEight.com, there’s significant variation in their support for the chief executive.

As of April 22, Democratic 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree had voted as you’d expect from a committed liberal. Pingree backed Biden 100 percent of the time.

More surprising was independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, who also voted with the prez every time. Independent in name only? IINO is a clumsy acronym. Maybe CD for Closet Democrat would be more accurate.

Then there’s Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. Right-wing critics have long derided her as a RINO – Republican in Name Only – and the numbers back that up. So far in this session, Collins has voted the Biden line 91.7 percent of the time. The only other GOP senators to skew that blue are Lisa Murkowski of Alaska at 91.3 percent, and Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah, both at 87.5 percent.

The fourth member of the delegation, 2nd District Democrat Jared Golden, is an outlier in his party, having backed Biden on just 62.5 percent of votes. I couldn’t find another Dem with numbers anywhere near that low, although at least one Republican, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, scored a few points higher than Golden.

That qualifies the rebellious representative for the title of DINO – Democrat in Name Only.

Plato’s republic: Plato Truman of Saco died on April 7 at the age of 92. Truman was easily the most entertaining politician of his era, having served as a state representative and an unsuccessful candidate for Congress, U.S. Senate, governor, Maine Senate, and mayor of Biddeford.

Truman always used the campaign slogan “Two Great Names, One Great Man.” But that’s where his consistency ended. At various times, he was a Democrat, a Republican, and an independent. In nearly a dozen campaigns for office, his political ideology swung widely and unpredictably.

After winning a seat in the Legislature in 1964, he never again came close to victory, racking up a string of electoral defeats spanning over 35 years. His next closest brush with success came in the 1970 Democratic gubernatorial primary against incumbent Gov. Ken Curtis.

Truman’s big issue was Curtis’ implementation of a state income tax. He got 40 percent of the vote. In his typical quirky fashion, he later ran on platforms that included tax hikes to pay for education and health care. He also backed conservative causes, such as reducing the size of government, a balanced budget amendment, term limits, and a huge military build-up. Except when he didn’t.

“I am a liberal,” he told audiences while running for Congress as a Democrat in 1982. “That feels so good, I’m going to say it again. I am a LIB-ER-ALL.”

Four years after that campaign, in which he called for the United States to unilaterally disarm, he was again seeking a congressional seat, this time as an independent supporting Ronald Reagan’s massive defense increases. How did he reconcile that radical shift?

“Those,” he explained, “were different times.”

Of course, Truman never did fit into any strict ideological straitjacket, so he was also calling for a big increase in the minimum wage and a most un-Reaganesque demand to nationalize the oil companies.

“There’s been a metamorphosis over the years,” he said, apparently unbothered by his propensity for understatement. “I like to think I’ve learned as I’ve kept going.”

Are you sure you meant to say that? During a legislative hearing in April, Newell Augur, a lobbyist representing a retail wine, beer, and booze store, attacked a bill allowing more out-of-state companies to sell wine by mail in Maine. He was quoted thusly in the Lewiston Sun Journal: “It is inconsistent for Maine to be (an alcoholic-beverages) control state, and at the same time cleave to the notion that we should be guided by the principles of free enterprise, namely that the consumer can get what they want when they want it.”

A smart lobbyist doesn’t usually make his opponent’s argument for him. Even conservatives who don’t like booze are basically free-market capitalists. By putting it that way, Augur is urging legislators to vote against something they think they’re for.

Dumb.

Don’t be a CINO – Complainer in Name Only. Email me at [email protected].