The Portland Phoenix

The Universal Notebook: ‘No comment’ candidates

Despite rampant inflation and the resultant rise in the cost of food and fuel, the Big Red Wave forecast by Republicans did not strike America — and certainly not Maine — on Election Day.

Gov. Mills won easily. Paul LePage was sent packing back to Florida where he belongs. Rep. Chellie Pingree won a laugher over Ed Thelander. And I have a feeling after the ranked choice voting count Rep. Golden will keep his seat in Congress from being re-occupied by Bruce Poliquin.

Most intelligent people understand that elected officials have little or no control over the economy. The Republican strategy of blaming Biden and Mills didn’t work.

But what really interested me about the Nov. 8 election was the GOP’s No Comment strategy. In case you didn’t notice, the Republican game plan this fall was to not answer any questions if at all possible.

When I first noticed Republican candidates who “did not respond” to requests for information about their candidacy I figured they were probably placeholder candidates drafted at party caucuses just to get a name on the ballot. When I counted 10 No Comment candidates in southern Maine alone I knew something was up.

Among the unresponsive were Charles Ellis in Westbrook, Jason Desjardins in Bath, Jennifer White in Gray, Lucas Lanigan in Sanford, Susan Abercrombie in Portland, Joseph Velozo in Gorham, Heidi Sampson in Alfred, Ravi Jackson in Brunswick, Peter Doyle in Portland and Scott Jordan in Cumberland.

It was Scott Jordan who tipped the GOP hand, telling the Portland paper that he wouldn’t answer because the questions were unfair. The four questions were 1) What are your top priorities, 2) What is your biggest concern about the economy, 3) Do you support making abortion laws more strict and 4) Do you believe Joe Biden won the 2020 election fairly? I assume it was the last two questions that Republicans didn’t want to have to answer.

Asking a candidate his or her stance on abortion is standard procedure and even more important in the wake of the Supreme Court gutting Roe v. Wade.

Asking a Republican if they believe Joe Biden won in 2020 is just as critical. Anyone who believes Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him should be disqualified from serving in elected office. Trump’s Big Lie and the January 6 insurrection it provoked should be enough to disqualify Trump from running for anything ever again.

Predictably, eight of the No Comment Ten lost, most mired in the 30 percent range or lower. Only the two York County Republicans appear to have won.

Turns out the No Comment ploy was a national strategy. All over the country, Republicans refused to talk to the press, declined to debate their opponents and ducked questions from the public. It’s axiomatic in politics that the more people there are voting the harder it is for a Republican to get elected. That’s why Republicans work so hard to suppress the vote. Now it seems that the more voters know about a Republican candidate the less likely they are to vote for them. That was Paul LePage’s big problem.

Republicans who refuse to talk to the press are not interested in the common good or in public service. Paul LePage and Donald Trump were the first elected officials to not even pretend to serve everyone. They only want to further the extremist GOP agenda and they know they can’t get elected if they are honest about their mission, which in many cases is to replace representative democracy with a ruling autocracy.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.

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