The mid-term elections are over. After months of campaigning and disruption of their lives, candidates can go back to the normalcy of their everyday routines. With voter turnout approaching 60 percent in Maine, our state once more showed our greater engagement in all things political.
Contributing to the higher than normal turnout for a non-presidential election was the TABOR initiative, Maine's "slash and burn" attempt at tax relief, which went down to defeat, 54 to 46 percent. This is the second sound defeat of a taxpayer "rights" referendum by Mainers, but knowing some of the ideologically-driven leaders of the pro-TABOR side, I wouldn't be surprised to see something similar in two years, when we vote again.
The day after an election can be a bit of letdown, particularly when your candidate finishes a distant fourth. Pat LaMarche ran a grassroots, issue-oriented campaign, championing healthcare for all Mainers, an emphasis on a living wage for all workers, a commitment to renewable energy and some positive proposals for getting a handle on escalating property taxes.
As a Green Independent, LaMarche offered a clear, third party alternative to the traditional choice between elephant and donkey. LaMarche's female counterpart, the perpetually "catty" Barbara Merrill made a strong showing, gathering 20 plus percent of the total vote. As she conceded, however, she managed to show her less than gracious side, once more, which is what ultimately led to me go over to the LaMarche camp, late in the race. It is my sincere hope that Pat, gracious and genuine to the very end, will remain engaged in the political process. We need her ideas, energy and passion for all the people of Maine, not just the ones who drive luxury sedans and SUV's.
Maine faces a multitude of challenges. Governor Baldacci cannot allow his final four years to be business as usual. The Brookings Institute report has given anyone in a leadership position, a clear blueprint for taking our state forward, into the 21st century. Partisan posturing and political cronyism won't get the job done for the people of Maine.
Nationally, it appears that Democrats have been given a clear message from the voters--they are fed up with perpetual war, fear mongering, political scandal and ideological divisiveness. Regaining control of the House for the first time since 1994, Democrats must step up to the plate and lead.
As votes were counted last night, it became clear that Republicans had lost their hold on power across the country. In distrcts of all stripes--conservative, liberal and moderate — as well as in urban, rural and suburban areas, exit polls revealed that many middle class voters who fled to the GOP a dozen years ago appeared to return to the Democrats.
With this so-called mandate, the Democrats, or "the gang that couldn't shoot straight," now have a responsibility to address some of the most serious issues in our nation, including finding a way to unite a divided populace. For me, I saw several races, won by conservative Democrats, as offering very little substantive difference between them and the GOP incumbent. Joe Lieberman, who lost the primary to anti-war candidate, Ned Lamont, won as an Independent.
Will we see a troop pullout from Iraq, a push for universal healthcare, a closing of the income gap and a push to develop alternative energy sources? The pessimist in me says Democratic control of the House and even the Senate, won't alter business as usual.
As I've been preaching regularly here, during the latter days of the campaigning, our electoral process needs an overhaul. Until third party candidates, fueled by ideas rather than ideology can get into the game in a meaningful way, little if nothing will change for the working class people of our land. Obscene amounts of money, sent down from the corporate suites have poisoned our political well. Until we find the will to tap into the well of populist reform, I don't harbor any real hope that anything meaningful will result from all the hoopla surrounding last night's election returns.