The Democrats’ proposals for a ‘Better Maine’ are more of the same

The Maine Democratic Party may have finally gotten the message: Simply being the party of “no” to Gov. Paul LePage, and opposing nearly everything he says and does in knee-jerk fashion, isn’t enough to win elections.

After a year of anti-LePage shenanigans — including an attempt at impeachment that was essentially a circus pandering to their base — Democrats appear to be realizing that, even in this era of partisan polarization, they need a few actual ideas of their own to get elected.

Of course, some Democrats have realized this already. In the Second Congressional District, Democrat Emily Cain has touted her ability to work with LePage in her uphill battle against incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin.

At the state legislative level, as political parties are wont to do in an election year, Democrats late last month rolled out an agenda of their very own — or at least they attempted to. Unfortunately for Democrats, this was more of the same from them: vague, pie-in-the-sky promises with little in the way of specifics. Perhaps somebody should have mentioned to them that, if they’re going to try and get elected on the basis of their policies, they ought to actually propose some. Essentially, the little they put out — statements about the need for better transportation infrastructure; partnerships among colleges, universities and growing industries; a desire to reinvigorate Maine’s downtowns — amounts to Democrats saying that if they were in the majority in the Legislature, things would get better. We just have to trust them on that.

Just as we had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it, we have to go ahead and elect Maine Democrats to find out what they’ll do to improve the state.

Since the Democrats didn’t offer many details on how they’d improve things in their plan, which they call “A Better State of Maine,” it’s up to all of us as voters to fill in the blanks. First of all, we can safely assume that no matter what rhetoric they might spout, they will continue their crusade against LePage for his remaining two years in office. This means more protests, more futile gestures, and little in the way of real results in Augusta. It’s essentially two more years of liberals treading water and simply waiting for the 2018 elections so they can regain control of the Blaine House.

The State House in Augusta. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

The State House in Augusta. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Even if they were successful in that regard, though, what could we expect from Democratic control of Augusta? Based on this so-called agenda, we can expect more — of everything — from state government: more infrastructure development, more broadband internet access, more economic development. All of that might sound great, but in the end it boils down to one thing: more spending. As usual, Democrats continue to insist that more spending is the solution to all problems.

Of late, there’s been a tendency for liberals in Maine — indeed, all over the country — to pay for more spending with tax hikes, rather than by cutting spending elsewhere. These initiatives haven’t gone anywhere in Augusta, but they’ve made more progress at the ballot box. Last year, the initiative to increase funding for Clean Elections passed, which was to be funded by eliminating tax breaks. This year, they’re trying to increase education spending by raising taxes on the rich.

So, essentially, Democrats are switching their focus from simply opposing LePage to being tax-and-spend liberals, as they always have been. This may be effective in legislative races, but it isn’t likely to get them very far in statewide elections. If Democrats want to be more than just the party of no, it’s going to require more than just a change in tone and a few vague promises.

Instead, Democrats will have to follow the example of Democrats like John Baldacci, who offered his own ideas to reduce government spending and didn’t always toe the party line on fiscal issues. Instead, they’ve shown they’re fresh out of ideas of their own on how to truly lead the state.

Jim Fossel

About Jim Fossel

Originally from Alna, Jim Fossel has volunteered with a number of campaigns over the years, including for Peter Mills for Governor in 2006. He previously worked for U.S. Senator Susan Collins and House Republican Leader Josh Tardy.