The Universal Notebook: The sound and fury of elections

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Although I should know better after all these years, I do tend to get sucked into the rhetorical noise of elections. I find myself arguing aloud with claims made in television ads and by candidates in televised debates.

This election cycle has been filled with more hype and hyperbole, spin and misinformation than most, but then maybe I have just lost my tolerance for, with apologies to William Shakespeare, political tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

We have been treated this fall to debates in which candidates mouth cliches and generalities, repeating half-truths like mantras as though repetition might make them true. All parties are guilty of this and it ultimately leads to more confusion than clarity. Then there are the hot-air balloons of empty promises. Elect me and I will turn the economy around, create thousands of jobs, bring down the cost of energy, clean up the environment and make the sun shine on cloudy days.

I have been most disturbed by the noise coming from Eliot Cutler, who has to make a lot of noise because he doesn’t have a record to run on. When any candidate tells you they have created jobs, you should doubt it and when someone says he will do so as governor you know it’s not true. The Maine economy is beyond the control of any governor, senator or member of congress.

Though I am loath to admit it, Gov. Paul LePage, the Blowhard in the Blaine House, has been surprisingly effective in the debates. He distorts the truth as much as any man who has ever lived, but what has come across in the debates is that he is sincere in his belief that dismantling government is the best way to help people.

Rep. Mike Michaud has tried to ignore Cutler in the debates, sticking to the Democratic script that this is a two-way race, but he does so at his peril. He’s got LePage supporters convinced that he wants to give their hard-earned money to illegal aliens, while Cutler and his nabobs keep beating the broken bipartisan drum that Michaud’s a tool of labor. The core problem with Cutler’s beholden-to-no-one claim is that it also means he has no base of support from which to govern. He has no way to enact his bright ideas. He is pure sound and fury. He’d be better off selling his big brain to Mike Michaud.

The 2nd Congressional District is a creepy place and the congressional race up there has gotten predictably creepy. Republican Bruce Poliquin would like folks to believe that if they elect Democrat Emily Cain, we’ll have Muslim terrorists marching through the streets of Bangor. Emily Cain’s supporters have tried to convince voters that Poliquin will privatize their Medicare coverage and find ways to make a fortune on Wall Street while in office. Wait, that sounds just about right.

Some of the worst noise this fall has been made by opponents of the proposed bear-baiting ban. Vote Yes on 1, they roar, and we’ll have marauding bears breaking into our homes and eating our young. The bear-baiting debate on television was infuriating to watch. The slick, sun-tanned national head of the Humane Society had the facts on his side, but he probably cost the Yes side the vote all by himself with his smugness, haughtiness and bad manners, constantly interrupting his opponents.

Meanwhile, “our” wildlife biologists demonstrated time and time again that they cannot be trusted, insisting as they do that dumping tons of junk food into the woods has no effect at all on bear populations or behavior. Unless we feed the bears buckets of donuts, our state biologists claim, they cannot guarantee the public safety. But, ladies, it’s feeding bears that habituates them to human food and creates the public safety hazard in the first place.

After listening to all the political static, here’s what I think is apt to happen on Nov. 4: LePage may narrowly win re-election because Cutler could rise just enough in the polls to deny Michaud the victory. I’m thinking 39-35-25. Cutler would then become the Bill Buckner of Maine, banished to far-off places for his own safety.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, everyone’s nerdy big sister with perfect attendance, will easily defeat Democrat Shenna Bellows, everyone’s idealistic little sister. Poliquin could narrowly defeat Cain because she’s probably too progressive for her district. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree will trounce whoever it is she’s running against. The bear-baiting referendum will fail on a close vote.

And when all the racket stops, we will go on with our lives as though nothing had happened.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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