Politics & Other Mistakes: Lonely boy

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Guess who doesn’t like Jared Golden. I mean besides right-wing Republicans, left-wing Democrats, Bruce Poliquin, Nancy Pelosi, and most of the Washington establishment.

Actually, that about covers the anti-Golden amalgamation. According to polling in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, normal people seem to think their first-term Democratic congressman is OK. Not great, mind you, but adequate. Could be worse.

Much of the reason for that semi-positive polling is that Golden is likable. He’s a good listener, has a sense of humor, and hasn’t allowed his exalted political position to go to his head. Yet.

He’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind having a beer with. So, I did.

That’s more remarkable than it seems, because in previous columns I’ve called Golden “wishy-washy,” compared him to a jellyfish because he “floats and sways in a less-than-mesmerizing fashion while trying to avoid taking a position on almost any controversial issue,” and said he “has a propensity for making a damn fool of himself every time he opens his pie hole.”

Since I wrote that stuff, Golden has gotten a bit better at taking a stand. He’s kinda, sorta for Medicare for All, except stretched out over an extended period of time and maybe not quite for all. He’s against most gun control proposals. He opposes defunding the police. He’s refrained from punching me out.

Which he could easily do, being an ex-Marine with combat experience and more tattoos than the rest of the Democratic congressional caucus combined. Instead, over a couple pints, we had a few laughs and discussed nothing of substance.

But I came away with a better sense of why Golden will be tough to defeat in November even in a district Donald Trump carried by 10 points. A political activist not associated with the 2nd District race put it succinctly: “He’s decided to be Maine-scale and not be Washington-scale. There’s definitely a part of me that admires what he’s trying to do. People are tired of the fire and brimstone speeches about how the other guy is evil.”

The downside of that approach is it doesn’t play well with Democratic leaders in D.C. Golden isn’t popular with that crowd, ever since he announced two years ago that he wouldn’t vote for Pelosi for House speaker. Since then, he’s annoyed party bosses with his occasional refusals to toe the line, most famously when he split his votes on the two articles of impeachment.

“He doesn’t have a friend in Washington,” a veteran Maine politician told me, “which makes him a lonely guy.”

Nevertheless, Democrats will pour plenty of cash into getting him reelected because their House majority isn’t so big they can afford to sacrifice his seat in a fit of pique. But Golden’s outsider status calls into question how effective he’ll be in a second term. Mavericks with little seniority are prime targets for getting ignored or thwarted.

On the plus side for Golden, the GOP has done an outstanding job of presenting him with an opponent with plenty of vulnerabilities. Dale Crafts isn’t well known and doesn’t have much money. The former state representative holds extreme views on abortion (it should be illegal in all cases, even to save the life of the mother) and LGBTQ rights (they shouldn’t have any). Crafts is open to privatizing at least part of Social Security, calling into question where the money will come from to pay current and soon-to-be retirees. His health-care plan is to let the private sector do whatever it wants. And he refuses to criticize Trump, no matter how weird he gets.

Also, I don’t think Crafts, an evangelical Christian, does much drinking, so there goes our beer date.

Golden won in 2018, defeating Poliquin in a ranked-choice runoff. With only two candidates in the 2020 contest, ranked-choice won’t be a factor. What will be a factor is how much Trump’s support in the 2nd District has dissipated in the last four years.

Also, that likability thing. Good thing for Golden that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t get a vote.

Tell me to like it or lump it by emailing [email protected].

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