Mainers have been justly proud of their political culture which, compared to other parts of the country, has been remarkably civil, featuring lawmakers who often seem more interested in finding solutions that help the state's people, than getting caught up in partisan death matches, hyperbolic assertions, outright lies, and appeals to humanity's worst instincts. Augusta has many problems, to be sure, but nothing like those in Albany, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C.
But in recent years the worst pathologies of national politics -- elections awash in a sea of soft, difficult-to-trace soft money, the drafting of bills and gubernatorial policy being outsourced directly to corporate lobbyists and special interest think tanks, legislative initiatives that represent the interests of campaign donors rather than voters -- have infected the state. Gov. Paul LePage's administration has been a vector for some of the worst viruses, but plenty of others were quietly metastasizing in the body politic during the Democrats' long watch.
But don't give up on Mainers, yet. Yesterday, Rep. Kathleen Chase (R-Wells) asked a key legislative committee to kill her controversial immigration bill, modeled on the infamous Arizona statute. The reason is moving, even for cynical political observers like myself: she had an emotional, occasionally fiery face-to-face meeting with immigrant advocates Rachel Talbot Ross (of the Maine chapter of the NAACP) and Alyisa Melnick (of the Maine Civil Liberties Union) and, after a few days of contemplation, recognized the harm the bill would have done to people unlike herself.
MPBN's Josie Huang has the story, and its worth listening to the original three minute audio version. If empathy can survive in the corridors of power, there's hope for us all.
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