Many of you have made it clear that you do not understand why I had such disdain for Eliot Cutler during the fall campaign. Before we move on and move forward, I want to try and articulate it–but it’s time to focus on winning back the State House and Senate in 2012.
Like most of my Democratic friends, I am ready for the 2010 elections to be behind us and move forward. This cycle has been brutal–and I’m only an activist. The professional staff and candidates who put themselves on the line to better our state amaze me for their efforts.
I want to explain my rationale for what is, apparently, the most controversial thing I’ve ever posted to Facebook. After Libby Mitchell, the candidate whom I was proud to support and vote for, conceded the election at 10:00PM, I voiced that I hoped Mayor Paul LePage of Waterville would defeat unenrolled candidate Eliot Cutler.
Clearly, on the majority of issues, I am ideologically closer to Cutler than I am to Paul LePage. I fundamentally disagree with Paul LePage’s view of government and approach to governing, and sincerely hope that he will reach out to folks on both sides of the aisle in Augusta to better learn the process. I hope that experience will help to mold his view towards one that understands that we can’t simply cut our way to prosperity.
While I fundamentally disagree with Governor-Elect LePage, I do not for a second doubt his love of Maine and his desire to make sure that all Mainers have the same chance at a prosperous life as he did. While I respect any candidate like Eliot Cutler for putting himself on the line for voters to decide, I firmly believe that Eliot Cutler’s bid for Governor was more about ambition than working to move our state forward.
If Cutler was truly concerned about the direction of Maine’s parties, and the “extreme” candidates he so often spoke of, why did Cutler not wait to announce until after the primary? While I believe that Libby Mitchell is firmly in the mainstream of Maine’s electorate, how could Cutler make such claims in a once-possible Mills-McGowan or Abbott-Scarcelli race?
I don’t doubt for a second that Eliot Cutler loves our state as much as Libby Mitchell or Paul LePage, however, Cutler’s decision to portray himself as an independent, because he couldn’t win a Democratic Primary, and his decision to be dishonest with the people of Maine about his business record in China shows that Cutler was more concerned with winning than moving Maine forward. Cutler’s concession speech was gracious, and there certainly is a place at the table for him should he choose to embrace it.
Eliot Cutler was a spoiler. I understand that he came within a point of Governor-Elect LePage and Senator Mitchell came in third; that does not make Mitchell a spoiler. The Democratic Party, regardless, would have put forth a candidate for Governor in this cycle; Eliot Cutler chose to run and failed to court any significant Republican support. Cutler, flat out, handed the race to Paul LePage.
Could Libby Mitchell have beat Paul LePage in a head-to-head match-up? I don’t quite know. Cutler understood what he was doing.
I have tremendous respect for Shawn Moody. While I have strong allegiance to the Democratic Party (a professor said last week that I was the biggest partisan he knew), I can respect Moody’s claim that he’s been independent all of his life – and he had some great ideas that I hope Governor-Elect LePage and the Republican Legislature will consider.
My rationale for preferring Paul LePage over Eliot Cutler is three-fold. First, as I mentioned, Cutler has not been honest with his dealings with the Chinese government. I know that some folks were upset with the Maine Democratic Party’s mailers on Eliot Cutler; I’m not defending the mailers–but the substance and issues were fair. More disappointed with the results of this election I am with those who decided to publicly criticize the party for its decision days before an election. In a rough cycle for Democrats, the worst possible thing that any party leader could do was publicly criticize the party staff, who did a tremendous job in one of the toughest cycles in decades.
Second, is that Cutler’s approach to “govern from the center” is a poor approach. Our system is about moderation of extremes–we need folks on the left and right coming together. When you start at the middle, you’re never going to achieve consensus or sacrifices from both sides–and you wind up with a watered down policy proposal that is passed on partisan lines. Healthcare reform is the perfect example – we have an awesome bill that is going to give so many Americans like me the chance to even live. But the bill could have been more popular – if we had been insistent on a public option and then watered it down, it probably would have still been party line – but more popular.
My biggest problem is with the folks that say, “Libby should have dropped out to allow Cutler to beat LePage.” I’m not a Democrat because I don’t agree with the Republican Party. I’m a Democrat because I believe in a party founded on the principles of Jacksonian Democracy and embraces the liberalism of FDR, Harry Truman, and LBJ that says government can bring about social change to help ensure equality and a fair shot–but not success–for everyone.
I didn’t knock on doors and make thousands of phone calls because I didn’t think Paul LePage was right for Maine–I did it because Libby Mitchell offered a clear vision for Maine that built on everything we do right, not on the things we do wrong. I’m a Democrat because I firmly believe in ensuring that everyone has a chance at success; not because I disagree with the other side.
I understand that LePage’s election puts in jeopardy education funding. His plan to be “tough on special education,” proposal to close University of Maine System campuses, and support of increasing tax sizes concerns me. So many of my friends worked hard on Maine’s Marriage Equality initiative last year, and that type of legislation is certainly off the table for the next few years. I understand that Paul LePage is not the ideal candidate for Governor–and that’s why I didn’t support him; but a plurality of Mainers have spoken, and we need to accept their decision and treat Governor-Elect LePage with the respect he deserves. His victory was no small feat.
Libby Mitchell ran an honorable campaign; she couldn’t fight with the millions thrown into this race by Eliot Cutler and outside Republican groups. I will always maintain that she was the right candidate in this cycle; not because she wasn’t Paul LePage, but because she was Libby Mitchell.
I want to be for something; not against something.
Ben Goodman is a junior at the University of Maine majoring in political science. He currently serves as the President of the Maine College Democrats. He is the host of Drive Time Bangor, airing daily on WMEB 91.9 FM.