Maine’s two major political parties are in trouble. The fact we’re a unique state due to our general acceptance of third parties and independents makes our politics an interesting arena already, but 2012 has and will continue to be an interesting moment in history. Because of what has occurred and what will continue to unfold, the future could change things for the entrenched political factions.
The troubles of the Republican Party are well-documented. From the start, the train was no sooner out of the station before it was going off the rails. The caucus was a disaster. With the warnings of the Ron Paul presidential campaign proving true and their delegate strategy successfully implemented, the party leadership responded horribly to the party’s new activists. Alienation of the newcomers was a policy that ran until the tense and chaotic State Convention.
The convention was delayed because of a drawn out vote for secretary and chair at the convention. The next big duel was for National Delegates, the pot of gold for everyone as they would eventually cast votes for the presidential nominee. Fake slates were created and passed out to Ron Paul supporters in effort to deceive them. A individual by the name of David Sorensen would keep approaching the microphone and nominate various Ron Paul supporters in effort to divide the anti-establishment vote, further delaying time as these individuals had to come withdraw the nominations made without their approval. Charlie Webster eventually took the microphone to warn that the party would be on the hook for thousands of dollars if they passed time reserved with the Augusta Civic Center. Thousands of dollars potentially wasted and Webster rewarded Sorensen with a job as Communications Director.
Webster pandered to the new movement within, pledging to stand up for the National Delegation. Eventually, he would predictably fold. Bitter ousted-National Committeewoman Jan Staples and Romney Maine chairman Peter Cianchette would file a delegation challenge that would become the center of a fiery controversy that would ultimately destroy any hopes of Republican unity, as it bred distrust and anger on all sides. The challenge resulted in half of the duly elected delegates being replaced by established party members and legislators who really didn’t seem to mind jeopardizing their reelection campaigns in the months to come.
It’s been ugly within the Republican Party. Heavy losses are sure to come, but not necessarily with the opposition standing to gain.
The Democratic Party has a third party problem and it became apparent as everything fell apart for them in 2010, losing the State Legislature to the Republican Party. In a feat not accomplished in decades, the opposition also secured the Blaine House. The successful election of Waterville Mayor Paul LePage might’ve been prevented had it not been Independent Eliot Cutler dividing the liberal vote. LePage edged Cutler for the win, by less than two percent. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Libby Mitchell carried just under twenty percent overall. What if the Democratic Party had a united front? Governor Mitchell, that’s what. But it’s not.
Fast forward to 2012, where the Democratic Party should appear invincible given the collapse of their opponents. Senator Olympia Snowe announced she would retire, resulting in a possible gain for the Democrats. With a divided Republican Party, led by the Tea Party movement and the Ron Paul grassroots, a united front for them would be unlikely. The Republican Party is still divided, with multiple factions still distrusting of one another. Worse off? The race isn’t Republican Charlie Summers versus Democrat Cynthia Dill. Independent Angus King is instead holding strong in first, but with Summers closing in. Dill is somewhere off in the distance.
One could present the premise that we have a two-party system and it is invincible. Here in Maine however, the politics are different than most areas. We’re unique. Right now, the Republican Party is burning and the Democratic Party isn’t set to make the necessary gains they should be given the former fact. Something isn’t right.
And all the while, there is a gentleman by the name of Gary Johnson in the distance and a Libertarian Party awaiting that five percent threshold necessary to become official. Maybe Maine politics is changing. Will it lead a new national trend, and lead politically as a state, again?