Ignorance is bliss

Social issues
By AL DIAMON  |  July 1, 2010

Maine governors do stupid things.

Let's start with the decision to run for that office, even though they have no discernable skills that might qualify them for the position. After that, it's all downhill. Botched budgets. Inept administration. Inconsistent positions. Irrational tirades. Backroom deals. The Dirigo health program.

In this way, governors build their legacies. Sort of like how criminals build their rap sheets.

That's the way the state has always operated, and I have no objection to it — with one exception:

I don't like surprises. If a governor is going to do something stupid, it should be predictably stupid. By this, I mean that gubernatorial candidates ought to be clear during their campaigns about exactly what stupid things they might do if elected. Then, no one can complain when they do them. (Well, I can complain, but I get paid to do that.)

This brings us to the current race for the Blaine House, in which there seems to be a movement on the parts of both the left and the right to stifle all discussion relating to those areas where potential governors are most likely to offer up their stupidest ideas:

Social issues.

The official position of just about everybody running for governor is that it would be best not to mention abortion, same-sex marriage, teaching creationism in schools, and other such topics because . . . er . . . uh . . . I'm not too clear on why that is. Let's ask Peter Mills, one of the losers in the Republican gubernatorial primary and a social liberal.

"It is important that we as a party begin to set aside some of the social issues that divide us," said Mills at a unity rally in Waterville on June 17. Instead, he said, the GOP needs to "focus on business."

Republican nominee Paul LePage, a social conservative, was in rare agreement with Mills. Speaking at the same event, LePage called debates about abortion and gay rights, "politics as usual."

He added, "If we concentrate on social issues as the number one issue this fall, the state of Maine is doomed."

That looks like one of those stupid positions I mentioned.

It's not just Republicans who are advocating tiptoeing around these controversies. On June 22, the Lewiston Sun Journal editorial page advised the candidates not to get "dragged into social issues." When they're asked provocative questions about their stands on such matters, the Sun Journal seemed to be advising them to refuse to answer. "[W]e wish more candidates had the self-restraint not to take the bait," the paper said.

Apparently, if we pretend these unpleasant disagreements don't exist, the bickering associated with them will vanish. If that method works, I wonder why nobody is applying a bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach to fixing budget deficits and reforming taxes.

The reality is that an ignored problem tends to slink off and sulk for a while, after which it tries to regain the public's attention by pouring sugar in the gas tank, festooning the roof and trees with toilet paper, or placing burning paper bags full of fresh dog poop on the front porch and ringing the doorbell.

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