Do we really want clean elections?

By Ken Frederic | May 17, 2014

In an earlier piece I suggested voter involvement was the solution to clean elections and that focus was on financing. In the past few weeks, we’ve been treated to another demonstration of how voter apathy and ignorance leads to downright sordid behavior.

An organization called the Maine People’s Alliance created a hateful mailer in the format of a prescription "diagnosing" several Republican legislators as having no heart for opposing Medicaid expansion and no spine for failing to stand against Gov. Paul LePage. One instance also took a swipe at the governor using the language “Failed to stand up to Gov. LePage’s bullying”. While it’s true the MPA is responsible for the organizational culture that permitted such an idea to thrive, it’s also true that we, as voters, are responsible for a social culture which permits that MPA tactic to thrive. After all, the MPA was simply advancing its objectives by doing what has been shown to work.

The MPA is characterized by the Bangor Daily News as a “shadowy nonprofit with secret funding and its own agenda” and as a “radical left-wing group that serves as the ground forces of the [Democrat] Party." The mailer was so beyond acceptable that an MPA spokesman immediately apologized and several Democrats hastened to denounce it. I’m sure this is not the last hateful mailer, palm card, or bumper-sticker we’ll see: The fact is that politicians and their consultants know they get results.

That they do is because we, the voters, remember them and allow our views to be shaped by them. We are also being profoundly insulted by them but seem to not notice (or care about) the insult. Consider what this mailer reveals about the MPA (staffers) attitude towards Maine voters:

1. No Heart – voted to deny health care to 70,000 Mainers. This assumes the voter is ignorant of the facts about the proposed expansion, including that all of those 70,000 already have access to health care and most have very low cost alternatives to Medicaid. It also assumes the voter would accept that the targeted legislators voted against the expansion not because it was fiscally irresponsible but out of some lack of sympathy for those the Affordable Care Act had left out in the cold. It also assumes the voter accepts that legislators should make decisions emotionally with their "heart" rather than with their heads based on the fiscal realities and the good of all of Maine’s citizens.

2. No Spine – failed to stand up to Gov. LePage’s bullying. This assumes the voter is ignorant of the governor’s position and his character. It also assumes the voters accept that one man has the ability to "bully" both houses of a Legislature dominated by the opposing party. Perhaps most insulting of all is the notion that opposing legislators didn’t vote based on their own legitimately held views despite the fact it was the proponents that voted as a bloc. For my part, that alone confirms where the bullying really exists.

3. Finally, this mailer appeals to voters not as taxpayers but as victims dependent on handouts who vote to increase their "take." Despite Mitt Romney’s extremely ill advised “47 percent” comment and the tendency of both parties to inappropriately lump Social Security and Medicare together with TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid, we have not yet reached the deplorable state that the MPA assumes in this hateful attack on legislators who oppose endlessly expanding entitlements.

The MPA is not the only shadowy organization contemptuous of Maine voters and taxpayers, and it is not the only organization that exploits the least fortunate among us as props in their quest to expand entitlements. The testimony before the Health and Human Services Committee affirms that the largest and fastest growing industry in Maine is the alliance of advocates and providers who derive their incomes from entitlements. This includes people and companies providing housing, counseling, treatment, education, transportation, and other "services" to the poor along with legions of attorneys and consultants. We don’t know who funds the MPA and we don’t know what their detailed agenda is, but documents submitted to the HHS Committee clearly show a network of organizations testified in favor of expanding Medicaid and defeating any reforms to "welfare." The MPA website lists more than four dozen “allies and partners," all of which have a financial interest in expanding government spending. That doesn’t mean these organizations are nefarious, or that they don’t provide services needed by our fellow citizens. It does mean people, organizations, and companies other than those receiving benefits have an interest in expanding entitlements, and profit is absolutely among those interests. It does mean voters should beware of what any of these organizations put out and should question whether, on the balance, it is the public or their own financial interests being served.

Voting is a solemn responsibility and those who do not invest the time and effort to educate themselves on the issues, question what they read and hear, and meet and know their candidates cannot legitimately speak about their desire for “Clean Elections." There are many examples of organizations like the MPA and tactics like this one. They exist only because too many people choose not to do the work it takes to be an informed and responsible voter, and to demand honest discussion of issues, not name-calling beneath middle-schoolers. We’ll have the kind of elections we want and the elections we have now are, whether we want them or not, the kind of elections we’ve tacitly or explicitly accepted.

Read the BDN article here:

Comments (2)
Posted by: JUNE DOLCATER | May 19, 2014 09:22

It is my earnest hope that many of the uninformed voters will take the time and learn about the candidates and the issues they support.

Posted by: paula sutton | May 19, 2014 07:17

Thank you for this thoughtfully composed article.  My hope is that it motivates voters to more thoroughly investigate and question the candidates and issues . 

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