Thursday, August 12, 2010

Maine G.O.P: Have the Moderates Lost Control?

In a highly polarized, winner-takes-all, "damn-what's-right-do-whatever-helps-our-side-win" national political scene, Maine's Republican Party has long been an anachronism: a bastion of moderate centrists succeeding in the bluest of American regions. While the national party fell under the control of the Christian Right and Dixie oligarchy decades ago, Maine's G.O.P. has continued to put forward people in the old Nelson Rockefeller mold: Margaret Chase Smith and Bill Cohen, Jock McKernan,and Olympia Snowe. In Maine, it seemed, the center still held.

But with the volatile "Tea Party" crowd having succeeded in rewriting the party platform, securing their preferred gubernatorial candidate the party nomination, and taking over county committees, one wonders if the centrists have finally met their Waterloo.

My piece in the new Down East asks if the moderates have finally lost control of the party, with input from Cohen, former party chairman Robert A.G. Monks, vanquished gubernatorial candidate Peter Mills, triumphant candidate Paul LePage, Tea Party activist Andrew Ian Dodge, the conservative retired Bangor Daily News political columnist John Day, and others.

The answer, you'll see, depends on whom you talk to.

One correction: Sen. Snowe would face a possible primary challenge in 2012, not "next year" as I wrote in the piece. The oversight is mine.


  1. Great piece, Colin, but this brings back bad memories.

    I remember warning people in the 1980s about Gingrich's people running people for school boards, etc. and hearing "Oh, no one will vote for them because they're crazy."

    Let the record show that crazy is apparently NOT a disqualifying characteristic.

    Years ago I produced a public affairs program for WCYY Radio. In an interview with a prominent moderate Republican Senator whose name was being floated as presidential or Veep material, he told me "I could never win the nomination from these people."

    Well, "these people" are worse; they are the children of Gingrich and Limbaugh. Radicalism fueled with loathing for difference and fear of knowledge. Margaret Chase Smith would have had something to day about this, while our own Senators are silent. I find that sad, and disappointing, yet understandable. That is not an endorsement of their silence.

    The 24 hour news cycle has created an indiscriminate cesspool of rumor, sensationalism, and unchecked "reports" such as the Shirley Sherrod story. Journalism was once the most reliable arbiter of the truth, but in an increasingly fragmented media stream, which alternately isolates our consumption even as we connect to an infinite source, how will that ever be the case again?

  2. Sanity is sadly not a prerequisite for being elected to high public office. Weimar Germany learned this the hard way.

  3. Reading Colin's post (excellent, btw), and Martha's comment, am I to deduce that the inmates now run the asylum in ME?

    One caveat I'd add to your final paragraph (re: journalism) is that for most this would be true. However, for those who don't require their news to be spoon fed, in ideological soundbites, this is a great time for news gathering and "truthiness," if you know where to look, fragmented media stream, or not.

    The crazies won't listen to fact, regardless of whose peddling it. They know what they think they know, and no amount of effort will pry them from their delusional perspective.

  4. How come nobody writes about the far left controlling the Maine Democratic Party?

  5. @Anonymous: Because, in case you haven't been paying attention, the far left doesn't control the Democratic Party. (Whatever one's criticisms of John Baldacci, Libby Mitchell, or Severin Beliveau, they're hardly Che Guevara figures.)

  6. I was pleased to see Down East assessing the Tea Party movement, but, geezum, Colin, you made those yahoos sound entirely too reasonable.