The partisan gridlock that plagues Maine and the nation and threatens the very foundations of democracy is not a bipartisan affair. The idea that both parties are to blame is a third-party canard, a pick-me strategy concocted by independent candidates who can’t win.
The truth is the Republican Party is primarily to blame. The new Republican extremists see politics in terms of good and evil, the end justifying the means, compromise being weakness, negotiation amounting to collaboration with the enemy.
Placing party over patriotism is at the heart of the Republican refusal to take Russian interference in U.S. elections seriously. Naturally, President Donald Trump sees the mounting evidence of Russian interference as a threat to the legitimacy of his presidency. But the Republicans in Congress aiding and abetting him in his attempts to obstruct and derail the Mueller investigation are as guilty as Trump is, and more.
I knew the GOP had cashed in its ethical chips when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, refused to allow a sitting president to exercise his constitutional duty to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat. McConnell then pushed the nuclear option button to blow up years of collegiality in order to make it easier for the GOP to ratify a conservative nominee by a simple majority. Neil Gorsuch, sitting in Merrick Garland’s seat, is no more a legitimate member of the Supreme Court than Donald Trump is a legitimate president.
Republicans, of course, excel at such dirty tricks. Just look what happened right here in reasonable Maine when a clerical error occurred in the Clean Elections funding law. The intent was clear, but Republicans in the Legislature refused to fix the error, preferring to use the mistake as leverage for their opposition to expanding Medicaid, even though Maine voters demanded expansion at the ballot box.
It amazes me how the Maine Republican Party has gotten away with repeatedly opposing the will of the people. Of course, they have Gov. Paul LePage as their standard bearer, the governor almost single-handedly standing in the way of Medicaid expansion as well as combating Maine’s opioid addiction epidemic. Why? Because LePage and the New GOP view addiction and poverty as moral failures.
Because the will of the voters here and elsewhere is clearly unfavorable to the Republican agenda, the GOP has had to master the art of vote suppression, doing everything it can – gerrymandering, voter ID laws, closing polling places, disinformation campaigns, purging voting rolls, etc. – to make it harder for the poor, the young and minorities to vote. It took Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to unmask Trump’s sham voter fraud commission for the fraud that it was.
The GOP is all that stands in the way of sensible immigration reform, meaningful gun control and universal health care. To keep these popular measures from being enacted, the Republican Party has waged a brilliant campaign to undermine public confidence in democratic norms and the rule of law. In collusion with Trump and alt-right media, Republicans have sought to de-legitimize the press, the intelligence community and the courts – all of the fact-finders who might sink the good ship S.S. Donald J. Trump.
Recently, we witnessed the sorry spectacle of Trump mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders refusing entreaties by CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who had just been targeted by Trump deplorables at one of the Trump’s unending “campaign rallies,” to simply agree that the free press is not the “enemy of the people” that Trump wants people to believe it is. Republicans are determined to help Trump stifle all criticism while they dismantle government and hand power over to an autocrat.
Why would a political party once identified with patriotism support a man like Trump? Because they have made a deal with the devil. They will support and defend an unstable tyrant as long as he signs bills that no Democrat or even no first-term Republican president would sign.
In November, Americans have a chance to correct this disastrous course before the S.S. Trump takes America down with it. Republicans in Congress are abandoning the sinking ship, resigning and retiring in record numbers. There are 20 open House seats being vacated by Democrats, but 40 being vacated by Republicans. Democrats need a pickup of 23 seats in the House and just two in the Senate to become the majority party, which will be a sign that the majority of Americans are not fools and are not fooled.
The Big Blue Wave in November does not need to be a tsunami, it doesn’t even have to be a tidal wave. It just has to be a turning of the tide away from authoritarianism and dirty tricks and back toward securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.