Angus King for US Senate

Former Maine Governor and Senate hopeful Angus King

Maine is lucky to have six five people running for our open US Senate seat. While Olympia Snowe will be extremely difficult to replace in terms of her stature and impact, two people running have the best chance to follow in her principled footsteps.

Former Governor Angus King has been the front-runner in the race since announcing his candidacy in March, both in terms of poll numbers and contributions. While Mr. King is running as an independent, he’s been consistently coy and curiously vague when asked whether he’ll caucus with Democrats if elected. Ironically, if that worst-case scenario plays out, King may end up being less independent than Republican Olympia Snowe.

Current Maine secretary of state Charlie Summers is a public servant, successful businessperson, and Iraq War veteran. While I consider him qualified and likely to rise to the calling of the office, unfortunately Mr. Summers’ campaign — and it’s many surrogates — have waged a nasty, often times untrue and completely negative campaigned aimed solely at making Mr. King look bad.

Lacking any shred of positive message and offering nothing other than defensive reasons to elect Mr. Summers, his campaign has never shed the pall of a desperate, angry crusade by a major party that appears more concerned with power and control than with carrying on Ms. Snowe’s impressive and honorable legacy.

Like Mr. Summers, Mr. King is an experienced business person and public servant. While Mr. Summers has squandered his impressive record on a soulless campaign, Mr. King has run a positive campaign, largely by himself and supported by his record and vision, without the excessive and aggressive push of party insiders and special interests bent on claiming his seat.

Both candidates earned the right to be considered. Angus King deserves to be our next senator because he has more clearly laid out his vision for following in Olympia Snowe’s footsteps as a leader free of insurmountable debt to a power-hungry major party.

No one politician can, as Mr. King has suggested, “fix” Washington. But if we elect a leader who can remain independent — not just use it as a prop to get elected — that’s a step in the right direction.

Yes on Question One

Next week, Mainers heading to the polls to vote for president, senator, representative, and local leaders also have the chance to legalize same-sex marriage in a ballot measure commonly known as “Question One”. A similar measure passed in 2009, but was overturned by Maine’s People’s Veto process just seven months later.

Three years later, with a second chance, it’s time that Maine people approve question one and finally make it legal for same-sex couples to marry in our great state.

It’s easy and popular to call same-sex marriage a “complicated” issue, but I disagree. Both for individual liberty, and for the good of society as a whole, I think it’s quite simple and essential to support the expansion of the marriage contract to include same-sex couples.

Separate from its religious overtones, and along side the rule of law, money, and freedom, marriage is an essential, foundational element of a civilized society. At its most basic, it is a contract between two willing participants that provides both individuals, as well as society in general, with widespread security, stability, and, yes, occasional happiness.

Opponents of the law have little ground to stand on. I see two primary arguments levied against allowing same-sex couples the right to marry. The first is that religious institutions will be unfairly harmed – in Maine’s case, that concern is respected and mitigated by the language of the law, which as written protects religious organizations from legal retribution should they choose not to perform same-sex ceremonies.

The second most common opposition comes in the form of a vague “threat” to marriage, citing “studies” and claiming that marriage will actually decline if more couples are granted the right to the marriage contract. The leading organization opposing the law, “Protect Maine Marriage”, goes so far as to claim that “When marriage no longer has its historic meaning and understanding, over time fewer and fewer people will marry.”

The lunacy and desperation of that argument is staggering. The institution of marriage is more, not less necessary in a society fighting war and economic decline; in that context marriage is as important today as ever. In its time of need, welcoming more consenting adult couples into the institution will strengthen, not weaken, marriage’s position in general by expanding it to include a class of people devoted enough to fight for the right to participate in it. It will also strengthen, not weaken, families as children see their family unit validated by society on symbolic (and many) practical levels.

You can often tell when an argument on any topic is on its last legs: it’s when fear will be grandiosely unveiled, a last-ditch effort to confuse and deter people from doing what they know is simple and just. In that spirit, Protect Marriage Maine writes on their website that the law, if passed, would “result in profound consequences for society.”

They are absolutely correct.

It would mean more people have the legal access that they deserve to one of our society’s most important elements. It would mean children’s lives enhanced by stability. It would mean our fellow citizens would be treated more humanely in the eyes of the law and as they go about their daily lives. It would mean a little, maybe a lot, more happiness in this world.

Those are indeed some profound consequences.

Why I don’t like the political conventions

Two convention attendees embrace

Note: I originally posted this on my WordPress.com blog.

Against my better judgement, I’ve found myself tweeting about the Republican and Democratic conventions over the past week. My tweets on the subject are usually sarcastic and/or attempts to be humorous, so I want to explain in a bit more detail why I think these are inane and even poisonous events.

2008 Republican convention
2008 Republican convention – Courtesy PBS NewsHour

Conventions are a shining example of the broken political system

Political conventions are a blatant reminder that most of American politics is not about governing, or innovating, or moving our society forward, but rather is about the two parties grappling for power, or attempting to hold onto power. As somebody who is not a member of either party, I find this shameless acknowledgement of the endless power struggle to be incredibly depressing.

Gary Vaynerchuck once said that one of the problems with America is that people put more effort into their weddings than their marriages. The same is true for politics: Governing is hard, messy, and wrought with failure; campaigning brings the glow of attention and the ability to say anything without consequence. Conventions celebrate the former excessively while completely ignoring the latter.

Conventions are insanely self-centered

No other segment of American life – not sports, not celebrity, not even business – spends as much time explicitly celebrating itself as the two main political parties (and their politicians) do during their conventions. As citizens, many of us are gleefully complicit, praising the days of empty rhetoric, self-serving video productions and ignoring the complete lack of substance or self-reflection. If you doubt that, watch as pontificating speeches about personal experiences are praised – and then the praise is praised!

Conventions bring out the worst in spectators

Like a YouTube video of bystanders idly filming a crime instead of attempting to intervene, I feel like people are at their most viciously partisan during conventions, whether it be predictably attacking every scrap of their opponents’ convention, or blindly celebrating every aspect of their own party’s event. The denial of reality and the refusal to be honest is established as a tone by the conventions, and then perpetuated by partisans.

What to do

To start, the conventions should no longer be given airtime on major networks. It’s ridiculous that major broadcast networks continue to provide prime-time air to the conventions In a time of hundreds of news and entertainment sources available across every possible medium and device providing years of coverage of every detail of the campaign.

Parties have the resources and the technology available to broadcast the conventions on their own – they no longer need or deserve the media frenzy supported by prime time air time.

In an ideal world, I’d love it if both parties retired the outdated and increasingly absurd tradition and replaced it with a new kind of event that placed integrity above pageantry. Give up the meaningless (and sometimes corrupt) nomination process and replace at least some of the endless cavalcade of speeches with honest assessments of the candidates’ records, plans, and promises.

Meet T-Paw

I get that taking some share of the youth vote away from President Obama is going to be a key to victory for Republicans in 2012. But that still doesn’t fully explain Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty referring to himself as “T-Paw” on his campaign website:

A screenshot of former MN Governor Tim Pawlenty's presidential campaign website

If a Pawlenty fan (or foe) out there can explain this as something other than a unique attempt to connect with The Youth of America, please let me know.

Congratulations to President-elect Barack Obama.

MaineOpenGov.org is a revolutionary new website which creates some amazing opportunities for enterprising journalists, bloggers, and citizens to ask questions in public and among friends about our state government and back them up with facts.

How and why? The how is simple: Sponsored by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the MaineOpenGov.org website provides a powerful, usable search engine which allows for thousands of public records to be searched on a variety of metrics. From state employee salaries to state payments to outside contractors, citizens can access a variety of information previously difficult to obtain, or unavailable altogether.

The why is equally simple: Transparency and accountability, two forces which are not only severely lacking in almost every government enterprise, but which can be powerful change agents for citizens to hold their elected (and non-elected) officials accountable.

Anybody with an internet connection (or access to a library) can search for patterns- or even single instances- of data, and use that information to tell their friends, publish it on a blog, or contact their representative(s).

This is big stuff, people of Maine- I hope to dive more into it in the coming weeks, and I encourage other Maine citizens to do the same. It’s at MaineOpenGov.org– give it a minute of your time today, even out of curiosity’s sake.

And on a side note, how have I not heard of the Maine Heritage Policy Center before? Judging by the MaineOpenGov site, as well as their organizational website, they are definitely an organization to watch, right in our own backyard.

Allen campaign calls race “in play” thanks to internal poll

The Bangor Daily News, my hometown paper, released the results of a poll today for the Maine senate race between Senator Susan Collins and Representative Tom Allen. If you’re not from Maine, you may vaguely know the race started off generating a ton of interest by out-of-state organizations such as MoveOn.org, but it has since been relegated to the lower tiers of watched races, as poll after poll have shown a large lead by Sen. Collins over her challenger, Rep. Allen.

Today’s poll completely supports the entire vibe (and the several other polls) in the race so far, this time with Collins leading Allen by 55-39 in a poll of 675 “likely voters” by the Daily News and local news stations WCSH and WLBZ.

In a textbook attempt to respond to these poll numbers (or actually, not respond to them), Allen spokesperson Carol Andrews told the Bangor Daily News that:

“Reliable polling conducted internally [by the Allen campaign] shows this race to be very much in play and far closer than those margins.”

Of course, no specifics were included with her comment. Possibly because Andrews is mis-representing her campaign’s polling in order to try and de-emphasize the media report. If that’s the case, it’s an unfortunate example of posturing on behalf of Allen’s campaign. If the internal polling is true, why not release the numbers in an effort to try and boost Represenative Allen’s standing in the race?

To try and resolve this question, I reached out to Andrews and the Allen campaign and see if they want to qualify their claims that internal polls show Rep. Allen much closer to Sen. Collins in the race.

In response to Andrews’ claim, here’s the email I sent to the Allen campaign’s press department today:

Dear press dept:

In today’s Bangor Daily News, Allen For Senate campaign spokesperson Carol Andrews stated that “Reliable polling conducted internally shows this race to be very much in play and far closer than those margins.”

Please send me specific results from the poll(s) referenced by Andrews, along with dates and sample. I will be happy to publish this data on my blog so that the people of Maine can see what Andrews is claiming about the race.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best,
Jason

I’ll post an update here if I receive any response.

At the beginning of the summer, I unsubscribed from Andy Baio’s Waxy.org, one of my favorite all-time blogs, because he linked twice to a blog which continues to push at times lame, and other times outrageous, ageism (scroll down to May 16th) aimed at Senator McCain.

It’s been four months since Baio linked the site twice (the second time defending ageism as a tactic against McCain), and since Senator McCain nominated Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate last month, I thought I’d pop in on Baio’s site, Waxy.org, and see if the liberal (and thus supposedly tolerant) Baio had decided sexism might be an acceptable tact against Governor Palin.

Gratefully, my non-scientific search of Baio’s blog archives, as well as his Links Archive, turns up not a single mention of Palin, suggesting Baio feels ageism is acceptable but sexism is not.

To test my suspicions, I dug through Baio’s Link archives since the ageism began, looking at June, July, August and September (as of 9/15), for any mention of the word “McCain”. I found 9 links total, one of which took aim at McCain’s age, this time with an entirely unfunny and decidedly lame joke (perhaps worse, it was a link to Daily Kos).

I am disappointed that somebody as smart and as respected as Andy thinks its appropriate- not to mention funny- to attack a person based on their age. I hope Andy can recognize that thoughtful people can disagree on why the person they support is better suited to the job of President, without resorting to any -ism, no matter how fashionable it might be.

UPDATE: Please see the comments for two thoughtful responses to my post, including one from Waxy.org’s Andy Baio.