As I drove east through Ohio and Pennsylvania after Election Day, listening to Rush Limbaugh spew his relentless rhetoric of hate-filled racist and nativist venom, delivered in Stepinfetchit dialect and Latino accent, I thought, what hope have we of coming together? And what would it look like if we did? As I entered Maine (where Limbaugh has a big radio audience), I wondered if a piece of the answer might be here. Maine has been a reliably blue state in presidential elections for 20 years, although it had earlier been solidly Republican (one of two states to vote for Alf Landon in Roosevelt’s 1936 landslide). But consider:
- Its two senators are moderate Republican women, although Independent Angus King, a popular former governor, will replace the retiring Olympia Snow.
- Its governor is a Tea Party Republican, elected with just 38% in a three-way race.
- While both members of Congress are Democrats, one is a liberal woman, the other the only New England member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition.
- The state legislature is narrowly Republican.
- After rejecting same-sex marriage in 2009, Maine voters approved it last week.
- It has implemented one of the country’s most successful dam-removal programs.
But Maine is not some political nirvana. Its governor has been disastrous, and an unholy alliance of left-wing demagoguery and corporate greed killed a broad-based sustainable forestry initiative several years ago. So what lesson can we take from its kaleidoscopic political landscape that produces disproportionately good candidates across a spectrum of strongly held beliefs?
I’ll try to answer that tomorrow.