The novelty that is Angus King
I like to think of myself as an admirer of truth.
With politics, truth is generally undervalued, underused and, at best, slanted. It has been hard for me to ever be too politically active because of this. As a salesperson by trade, I know one when I see one and usually politicians are among the best.
I don’t endorse politicians. I believe it is personal and I have always maintained my own political independence however much is seems, to those who know me, how much I might lean one way or the other.
It was with interest to hear more, from the Independent candidate from Maine for U.S. Senate, that I said “yes” when invited to listen to him speak last week.
It was more than just his label of “Independent” that seduced me in. It was the plain speak, coupled with his past that made me want to listen to what Angus King had to say. Among his straight answers to every question, was his explanation of why he, Angus King, was uniquely positioned to help Washington and our country move forward and represent his state of Maine, given the large shadow and vacuum that would be left behind when our current senator, Olympia Snowe, leaves office after the next election.
In the brief handshake I shared with King after the event, I asked him what he might have done had he not felt responsible to step it up and take the calling. When he told me that he and wife Mary had RVing in the plan book for fall of 2012, it reminded me that stepping up was a personal decision that helps define a person’s identity
In that moment, Angus became my newest hero.
He is, without a doubt in my mind, stepping up voluntarily out of sense of duty and obligation. Most people complain about a problem; few step up unless they have to.
The hook came when he shared one of the most important lessons he had received from a friend or colleague somewhere in his past. That message was the same one I got from my friend Jimmy about 25 years ago when Jim gave me a six-month notice that he was leaving his job as sales manager of The Free Press, getting married, and moving to Alaska on Jan. 1 with his new bride. Jim trusted me that I would keep him employed for the next six months while we searched for his replacement, and the time allowed for us to sell the four-family house that we were partners in. The six months would give him time to plan for his New Year’s Day wedding and new life in Alaska and me time to figure out life without Jim.
I agreed to honor and accept Jim’s resignation with one caveat; he and I would go to dinner that night and I would have one shot of talking him out of this crazy idea. Jim and I had known each other since junior high and he was now an adult above 30 years old who had spent the last few years picking himself up from a failed marriage in Colorado, relocating to Maine and beginning to establish a career path and some homeowner equity. “Why would you want to walk away from this,” would be the first, and then only question I would ask him that night at supper.
His explanation was that his dad had been a life-time postal worker who lived a good and decent life. I included buying a modest home, taking care of his family, providing the world with meaningful employment and instilling good values into his home. Jim’s mom followed a similar path, working as a nurse when the kids went back to school.
Jim’s answer was simple; he said he would rather be defined as a person that at his dad’s age said to himself, “what an idiot I was for leaving the good life in Maine” rather than the person that said, “I always wanted to live in Alaska”.
Our dinner had just arrived and my sales pitch had lost complete momentum; I could not respond with any “buts”, only with, “I get it Jim; I wish you and April the best”.
What I had learned that night from Jim was echoed by Angus; this great lesson on life was to define yourself by being a person without regrets. Angus told his audience that he believed his unique qualifications will give him the ability to make a difference for our state and our country and, while riding around in his RV, he would have wondered if he could have made that difference. In the end you will never make a difference unless you commit and unless you try.
King also described himself as a “congenital optimist." How can you not like the imagery that brings up?
He described Washington and its Senate and Congress as tools for the American public; tools that are not working at present. King talked about compromise and how he believes it is part of the human condition and that Washington has lost its way. Last year a couple of Republicans sided with our president on a couple of issues and were ostracized by their party and not supported going forward by their “family." Seems harsh and not a good way to do business. With everything moving faster these days, it is now more important than ever to find a middle road to go down.
When asked if an Independent could win, he can only look back to his past for answers. He is not alone in the belief that his history as governor is proof enough, and his record of success in the 1990s will also speak for itself. Interestingly to me, he cited a recent poll that projected all the Senate races and predicts a 50/49 split with one Independent (state of Maine). That bodes well and just might give him the leg up to show the leadership that is quite obvious, if you can trust the sense you get from his mannerisms and intelligence, compassion and his general curiosity of the human condition. These were (to me) plain to see.
Former President Bill Clinton talked about sugaring down our economic problems to just one word, arithmetic. I think the word for Angus King is commonsense. Isn’t that all we need in our leaders?
When it comes to politics, Angus shared a little antidote about a voter coming up to him and, with a firm handshake, thanking him robustly after his governorship victory. The man said that he had always wanted to back a winner and, for the first time, his “none of the above” vote mattered.
The fact that the latest round of television advertising for the Democratic candidate Cynthia Dill for Senate is being paid for by the Republicans tells me more than I want to know about the current state of politics. When you think about what this means, it leaves emptiness and a void. I get why this might be a good, perhaps desperate strategy, but it still feels wrong.
Whoever you vote for, I will promote one thing and that is to vote for something rather than against something. The rhetoric and the energy used to be against anything Obama is telling. It is King’s view that he himself doesn’t have all the right answers and he realizes that his opponents may have something better from time to time. It is always healthy to listen and to incorporate ideas from a quorum.
I am reminded that you can’t listen when your mouth is open.
Reade Brower, a longtime local resident, is owner of The Free Press and Courier Publications LLC.