Now that the election is over, Maine Democrats can get back to doing what they do best:
Hating each other.
The Democratic Party stayed remarkably united throughout this long campaign, but that unity was artificial, formed not from some common purpose (difficult to accomplish when you don’t actually stand for anything), but by fear.
The donkey party was scared to death that if it splintered again, as it did in the last two gubernatorial elections, Republican Shawn Moody was going to spend the next four years repairing cars in the Blaine House garage. Now that the threat of Moody banging out dented fenders in between vetoing bills has been removed, there’s no longer any compelling reason for Dems to make nice with each other.
Governor-elect Janet Mills may believe that her solid but unspectacular victory has given her some sort of mandate to push her agenda through the Democrat-controlled Legislature. She’s wrong.
“The party liberals held their noses and worked to elect her,” a Democratic veteran told me. “Now, they’ll expect a lot in return.”
There are two problems with Mills enacting any agenda with even the faintest whiff of moderation. First, she doesn’t really have much of an agenda. She’ll expand Medicaid, of course. She’ll release that bond money lame-duck Gov. Paul LePage has blocked. She’ll make superficial changes at the state Department of Health and Human Services, which probably won’t make abused children safer, won’t provide better services to people with mental illness and won’t force the welfare system to become more effective or efficient.
The other problem is Mills is going to find herself stymied, not by the GOP, but by the left wing of her own party.
The Maine People’s Alliance plans to ignore the will of the voters and revive its referendum giving free home care for everybody by attempting to convince the Legislature to pass it. The MPA is also pushing another petition drive to require businesses in the state to provide paid sick time to their employees. Considering the alliance’s utter lack of political smarts, there’s no reason to think it’ll stop there. Universal health care. A guaranteed income for every Mainer. Free kombucha for everyone. These folks think this is their chance to turn Maine into a socialist paradise.
Nor is the MPA the most extreme faction in the Democratic Party. Quite a few newly elected legislators from southern Maine and their cadres of scruffy activists have plans to mold the state into the sort of inclusive, politically correct, organic, holistic, hemp-growing, gluten-free, vegan, solar-powered wonderland that can easily be created with nothing more than a few billion bucks of taxpayers’ money and a system of mandatory re-education camps.
These freaks aren’t going to be satisfied with a Mills platform that dares not venture past needle exchanges for opioid addicts, loan forgiveness for college students and suicide prevention programs for veterans. They want radical changes, starting with a constitutional amendment that makes it illegal for men to so much as glance at women’s chests.
The reality is the far left is going to end up nearly as unhappy with Gov. Mills as they’ve been with Gov. LePage. Once the extremists realize she’s not going to grant most of their wishes, they’re likely to turn their energies toward the next election in 2020, when they’ll attempt to elect more frothing-at-the-mouth specimens who’ll publicly pledge to thwart Mills at every turn. Then, in 2022, they’ll either run one of their own against the incumbent governor in the primary or launch a third-party bid to split the vote, returning the state to the good old days of Trumpian bozos in high office.
There are, of course, several ways Mills can head off this internal revolt without giving in to a bevy of unworkable proposals. She can appoint a few liberal sweethearts, such as Betsy Sweet and Mark Eves, to prominent positions in her administration. She can file lawsuits against the federal government to limit the impact of the orange plague on the environment, social services and immigration. She can use her bully pulpit to talk about doing things she has no intention of actually doing.
Handled adeptly, these bits of window dressing ought to be sufficient to allow Mills a short honeymoon. But it’s only a matter of time before the euphoria of victory wears off, and Democrats begin to recall why they never really liked each other.
If you’re a Republican, that’s going to be fun to watch.
Before you take to the barricades, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.