This year, we have seen one of the most astonishingly hypocritical campaigns in Maine political history emerge. At the top of the Democratic ticket, Mike Michaud has been running on vague promises to bring people together. This alone would be brazen enough, given his inability to get a single bill passed throughout his tenure in Congress. (And no, having your ideas incorporated into someone else’s bill doesn’t count as the same thing. Sorry, guys.)
However, it’s been completely undermined by his allies, who have made the entire campaign about getting rid of Paul LePage. They’ve launched a constant barrage of false and misleading attacks designed to drive Mainers farther apart, not unite us. As they’ve been doing this, they’ve been completely unable to enunciate any positive agenda of their own for the state apart from empty pablum and recycled schemes.
Their lack of an agenda came into sharp relief recently, when Sen. Anne Haskell, the assistant Democratic leader in the Senate, was appearing on WVOM’s George Hale & Ric Tyler Show. When she was pressed to do more than simply criticize LePage and present the Democrats’ jobs plan, she was completely flustered. Before eventually repeating Michaud’s vague promises, she first said that we would all have to wait until after the election to see her caucuses’ plan to improve the state.
This was eerily reminiscent of an episode of The West Wing, in which Josh Lyman, filling in for the press secretary at the morning briefing, promises to the assembled press that the president has a secret plan to fight inflation. On the show, of course, it’s played for laughs, but in real life this kind of approach to governing and campaigning isn’t quite so amusing.
Of course, with such an uninspiring politician as their anointed candidate, it’s easy to see why Democrats would embrace such a negative strategy. Indeed, were their approach something new — or were it isolated to the gubernatorial race — their anti-LePage strategy might even be a legitimate one. It’s not just there, though.
Michaud himself has a history of launching false and misleading attacks against his political opponents, so this strategy is nothing new for him. The most recent example of this was during his 2012 reelection campaign, when he ran against Senate President Kevin Raye. Michaud falsely attacked Raye with claims that Raye remodeled his office kitchen and lounge with fake photos (much like his recent fake headlines praising himself). Back in 2010, he mocked opponent Jason Levesque — who had experience in the call center industry — as wanting to “replace middle-class jobs making products with jobs making calls.” (Apparently, call center employment is another kind of job that Maine Democrats don’t want.)
In the Senate race, Democrat Shenna Bellows has launched a constant barrage of frequently false attacks at Republican Sen. Susan Collins, trying to damage her reputation as one of the Senate’s leading moderates. This is not only unfair to Collins, who frequently works on both sides of the aisle to get things done, but will end up damaging Bellows’ own reputation without earning her many more votes.
This empty-suit negative approach isn’t just for the statewide candidates, of course. It’s trickled down to the legislative level as well, as evidenced by Haskell’s Josh Lyman moment on WVOM. There, their not-so-secret strategy to retain the majority is to attack all Republican candidates as being tools of LePage. They’ll continue to do this without any regard for the facts, just like Bellows and Michaud, because with no real agenda of their own, it’s all they have.