As I walked down the corridors of the Ralph Owen Brewster Hospice for Decaying Political Ideals, there were no indications of despair, pain, or misery. Perhaps that's because the management keeps the lights really low and pumps heavy metal music at ear-bleed volume through the sound system.
This facility is aptly named for the former Maine governor and US senator, who began his rise to power with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and ended it as a bag man for Richard Nixon. In memory of Brewster, compassionate admirers such as shady developers, sleazy consultants, and party hacks raised funds to construct a place where weary concepts that are running out of time and integrity can spend their last days in semi-gloom while being forced to listen to the complete works of Anthrax, Ozzy Osbourne, and Motorhead.
Through partially open doors, I glimpsed some familiar faces.
The Maine Green Independent Party was in the homeopathic ward getting a transfusion. I checked the stuff they were pumping in. The label said "Fertilizer," but the attendant assured me it was organic. "It won't be long before Greenie is up and around and once again getting less than 5 percent of the vote," he said. But he didn't sound like he believed it.
In another wing, I spotted what was left of Dennis Bailey's antigambling group Casinos NO! A worried looking doctor stood by its bed staring at a chart that showed a racino being approved in Biddeford, another in Washington County, as well as casinos in Lewiston, Bangor, and maybe even Oxford County. "I wouldn't bet on my patient making it through November," the sawbones said.
In the ward for charity cases, I saw beds holding all that was left of the Maine Democratic Party, Rosa Scarcelli's political future, Republican hopes of winning the 1st Congressional District, and the reputations of former LePage cabinet members Philip Congdon and Norman Olsen. I learned I'd just missed the hearse picking up the remains of Scott D'Amboise's senatorial hopes, and that GOP state chairman Charlie Webster's credibility had been transferred to the psychiatric floor.
That was all right, because I hadn't come to visit them. I was there to pay whatever respects I could muster to that last gasp of liberal idealism, the Maine Clean Election Act.
On July 20, that law was involved in a tragic collision with the US Constitution, when a federal judge slammed headfirst into the provision that provides publicly funded candidates with matching money if they're outspent by a privately financed opponent. Medical experts were called in and concluded they'd have to amputate that section, but were uncertain the patient would survive the procedure. "It's like cutting off both legs, one arm, a lung, the spleen, the pancreas, six ribs, a kidney, an eye, an ear, and a nostril," said one physician. "What's left isn't going to amount to much.
"Although," she added as a Nazareth track replaced the Uriah Heep blaring from the ceiling speakers, "in this place, losing an ear or two might not be so bad."