FLOTSAM & JETSAM: What we can learn from Maine about 2020

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

What we can learn from Maine about 2020

Sam Smith - As the map above from Wikipedia illustrates, about half of the electoral votes in 2016 came the south or mid west and Trump got most of them. The Democratic states tended to be on the coasts. Oddly, Maine reflects this division, having only two congressional districts - one of them liberal and along the coast and one inland. conservative and the second most rural district in the country. It is also larger than ten states.

This year - assuming a recount underway doesn't flip the race - the winner was a Democrat in his 30s.

According to the current liberal dogma, voters in the rural areas and the south are often considered racist and uninformed, just to mention a couple of standard criticisms. This does not match up to the facts, however.  For example Democrats Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton took much of the areas in question.

In Maine, in recent history there have been in the Second District seven Republicans (including moderates like Margaret Chase Smith and Olympia Snow) and five Democrats. With the exception of 2018, Democratic presidential candidates have won there in every race since 1992. In fact Obama's margin of victory (8 points) almost marched Trump's (10 points).

In other words, writing off the mid west or the south is self destructive. Instead, we need to approach it as another political challenge.

For example, the Democratic establishment and its coastak audience gives little attention to this part of America. Still, if you look at the list of the Democratic presidents that won it, you'll see one thing in common: they all came from there.

 Which is why I suggested in the 2008 election that the governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer be considered for the job. And why I urge a close look now at Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

It isn't popular, though, because the Democratic mainstream doesn't talk United States. In ways it sometimes doesn't even realize it dismisses a major portion of the country.

Which is why looking at the recent Maine 2nd District victory of Jerod Golden can help. Here's how Ballotpedia summarized his campaign

       Golden connected his background as a Marine to his idea of service in political office. He said that in the Marines and in the Maine House of Representatives, he served people over special interests and put politics aside to work as a team with others.
        Golden highlighted his experience working three jobs after his time in the Marines when discussing his policy priorities. He said he would work to protect healthcare coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, lower drug prices, and protect Social Security and Medicare.
        Golden called Poliquin a career politician. He said Poliquin voted for plans to cut Social Security and Medicare and remove healthcare coverage protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Golden's emphasis on healthcare was not his alone. The Maine Beacon noted:
     In a long email to supporters  reflecting on the election, the Maine GOP wrote, “Maine independents, undecideds and swing voters were largely persuaded to vote Democrat this year.” Adding, “We believe the issues of healthcare and the sentiment on national politics swayed the independents to vote that way.”

    From legislators’ support for Governor Paul LePage’s efforts to block voter-approved Medicaid expansion to U.S. House Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Maine Republicans were clear in their antipathy to health care.

    As the email goes on to note, turnout in Maine was “unprecedented,” particularly for Democrats, who won the governor’s seat, flipped the state Senate and expanded their majority in the Maine House – in addition to winning Poliquin’s Second District seat. An estimated 65 percent of registered Mainers turned out to vote, compared to 59.2 percent in the 2014 midterms, and 55.9 percent in 2010, according to Maine’s Secretary of State.
The other important thing about Golden is that he is in his mid-thirties. He represents an age group that will eventually have to run the country but right now is still voting way below, say, those  50 and older. While our politics discriminates by ethnicity and gender, it no less does so by age as well. For example, Quorum reports:
    Today the average American is 20 years younger than their representative in Congress. This should come as no surprise, considering that over the past 30 years the average age of a Member of Congress has increased with almost every new Congress. In 1981, the average age of a Representative was 49 and the average of a Senator was 53. Today, the average age of a Representative is 57 and the average of a Senator is 61. This prompted us to take a further look at those graying averages.

    The average age of the Democratic House leadership is 72 years old, whereas the average age of Republican House leadership is 48 years old. This trend continues in House committee leadership with Republican chairmen averaging 59 years old and ranking Democrats averaging 68 years old.
 In short, the election of Jared Golden is a nice lesson of the sort Democrats should pay more attention to: Respect and  help non-urban America and go for the young involved.