So far, one of the recurring themes of 2014 has been jobs and the economy. It has been a constant refrain from candidates up and down the ticket, in both parties. As usual, it being an election year, Democrats have been talking like Republicans on the issue. They’re hoping that voters will forget that, when they had a majority in the Legislature, they did nothing to help businesses. Indeed, this has become their default strategy in recent years.
At least one candidate, though, has taken a completely different approach.
You likely missed it if you don’t live in the Augusta area, but this week a Democrat running for local office in our state capital made some truly surprising remarks, captured for the record by my friend Don Roberts in his column for the Kennebec Journal. Linda Conti, a candidate for Augusta City Council, was meeting with the Augusta Good Government Committee, a nonpartisan group. Conti told the group’s members, “We have enough businesses in Augusta.”
Normally, this would be a truly mind-boggling statement. After all, a common claim of politicians is that they created jobs or that they will end up doing so if only you vote for them. It’s become fairly routine for candidates of all stripes to say they want to do more to attract businesses and create jobs. Saying you have enough businesses already is abdicating the role of the city in encouraging growth and creating new businesses: After all, if you already have enough, why try to get more?
Unfortunately, this was not simply a verbal slip-up from a random local candidate. Rather, it has been a pervading theme coming from Democratic politicians in recent years, coming all the way from the top. They have, it would seem, begun to shed their faux concern over such pedestrian issues as jobs. Perhaps they have realized that they can get away with finally expressing their true beliefs.
After all, this recent trend began in 2012 when Barack Obama, speaking at a rally in Roanoke, Virginia, told the crowd that “If you’ve got a small business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Incredibly, this remark didn’t cost him the election, even though it was a direct attack on the American ideals of independence and hard work.
So it was perhaps no surprise that Maine Democrats began to express similar ideas. It started with Senate President Justin Alfond, who said on WVOM radio that having no job at all was better than having a right-to-work job. He essentially was saying that he was happy to see Mainers stay unemployed as long as we didn’t become a right-to-work state. He was putting his ideological preferences over Maine jobs.
This was followed up a month later with a similar comment from U.S. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows. At a meeting of peace activists, she responded favorably to a question about converting Bath Iron Works for “peacetime purposes.” Here we have, yet again, a Democrat saying that — rather than fight for all Maine jobs — she might prefer one kind of job over another.
With this attitude so pervasive in the Democratic Party, it’s no wonder they spent this past legislative session raising taxes and trying to expand Medicaid instead of working with Gov. Paul LePage to grow the economy. This state needs people in public office who will consider all potential solutions to create more jobs, not ones who puts partisan blinders on. The last thing this state needs is more elected officials who are happy with the status quo.