Fri, Oct 31, 2014 ●
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Forecaster Forum: Independence in the Senate is an asset, not a liability

Opinion

Forecaster Forum: Independence in the Senate is an asset, not a liability

The United States Senate is called “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” a venerable institution where great men and women throughout history have participated in the exchange of big ideas that made America great.

Debate and compromise have never been easy, but they’ve always been necessary, and the Senate itself is the product of compromise. The spirit of collaboration that defined the Senate, however, has been lost in a wave of bitter partisanship and ideological intolerance. Somewhere along the way, the world’s greatest deliberative body stopped deliberating. We saw it most recently when Congress adjourned without a budget and left many important matters on the table.

The congressional gridlock and log-jamming going on is why I am running as an independent for the U.S. Senate. It's why Sen. Olympia Snowe, who is a respected, trusted, intelligent leader, is leaving. The issue is partisan politics. If partisan politics are so bad it can frustrate a senator of her stature, then it's time to try something new; it is time to move beyond party.

What does it mean to be an independent?

For Washington insiders it means asking the question: who will I caucus with as an independent. And I am still not answering that; I can't if I am to truly be independent.

For the many people I have talked to while touring the state and reconnecting, it's about being a voice for them; about loyalty to Maine people over party. Independents and independence are familiar to Maine, it's part of our cultural heritage. Maine is a hugely independent state with our heritage of logging, fishing and tilling the soil.

Our country faces daunting challenges. Uncertainty and brinksmanship from the government have stifled growth, and Maine and the country are still hurting as a result. We need a deficit reduction plan to restore confidence in the economy. We should expand rural broadband access so that rural areas grow and compete in the global Internet economy, because the status quo amounts to an economic death sentence. Social Security and Medicare are critical for older Mainers. Medicare faces an uncertain future and Social Security needs strengthening.There are ways to reform the programs that will ensure their long term sustainability.

Challenges aren’t new, and we solved them in the past through compromise and cooperation. Our representatives today, however, confuse “principles” with intolerance. They won’t listen to new ideas or work together.

Mainers are frustrated by Congress’s score keeping, and they don’t have time for stalemates. While Democrats and Republicans argue over who is winning, Mainers are losing. The tireless fisherman, farmers, loggers and small business owners of Maine can’t wait for answers. They are being overwhelmed by health-care costs, $4-per-gallon gas at the pump, uncertainty, and an anemic economy. But none of this can be fixed if the system designed to make all our lives better is broken, and right now it is.

That’s why I’m running for Senate. I’m not naïve or arrogant enough to believe I can stroll into Washington and change everything overnight. The Senate isn’t waiting for someone to tell them what’s wrong or how they can fix things. But the current system isn’t working, it’s time to try something different and we have to start somewhere.

My opponents claim that an independent can’t be effective, and that I can’t accomplish anything without the support of a national party. I’m struck by how familiar those arguments sound – I heard the same things when I ran for governor as an independent. But during my administration we cut taxes, brought unemployment to historically low levels, and fixed our budgets. We shrunk government while increasing productivity, we filled the state’s reserves, and we rebuilt our infrastructure, making repairs that were long overdue.

If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will go to Washington and work across the aisle – I will work with anyone, regardless of party label, who is ready to get to work and bring about solutions that move our country forward.

Independence isn’t a liability; in this moment, it's a tremendous asset. The founding fathers provided us with the Senate to help us confront the issues we face. In short, the world's greatest deliberative body needs to start deliberating again, and I’d like to contribute to that conversation.

Former Gov. Angus King of Brunswick is an independent candidate for U.S. Senate from Maine.