I'm trying to help the Maine Democratic Party by coming up with a slogan for its big comeback attempt in the 2012 election. Here's what I've got so far:
"We Promise Not To Let Libby Mitchell Run For Anything Ever Again."
"Cute As Eliot Cutler, Smart As Paul LePage, Electable As Shawn Moody."
"When We Were In Charge, Nobody Messed With Vernal Pools."
"A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Maine AFL-CIO."
"Liberals? We're Not Liberals. We're . . . Uh . . . Libertines. No, Wait, We Meant Libras"
"We Apologize For Not Paying Attention To The Economy And Stuff."
"We'll Give Everybody's Daughters $41,000-A-Year Patronage Jobs."
"Please Don't Kick Our Butts Again."
As you can see, it's not easy finding a simple catchphrase that sums up the Democrats' positions, although I think I came pretty close with "We're Sorta Against The Things The Republicans Are Doing, We Guess, Y'Know . . . Whatever."
The reason for this lack of a coherent rallying cry may be because now that the Dems are out of power, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the party doesn't stand for anything, other than a return to the style of governing that the public has resoundingly rejected.
If you doubt the Dems are suffering from a lack of focus, consider these fighting words from the Senate minority leader, Democrat Barry Hobbins of Saco. "The voters made a decision," Hobbins told the Bangor Daily News, "and now the Republicans have an opportunity to govern." The Dems' floor leader in the House, state Representative Emily Cain of Orono, also threw down the gauntlet in an interview with the Bangor paper. "Most of the work we do in the State House is unanimous and bipartisan," Cain said. "But some things aren't, and that's good, because not everything should be."
This sort of institutionalized wimpiness almost makes me nostalgic for failed gubernatorial candidate Libby ("We don't just talk about things, we do it") Mitchell or failed ex-Governor John ("We know we can do better") Baldacci.
The fact is Maine Democrats haven't had a clear agenda since George W. Bush left the presidency. Back in those glorious days, their platform was simple and pointed: Bush was to blame for everything from the lousy economy to getting us into unwinnable wars to excessive snowfall.
At their 2010 convention last May, the state's Dems no longer had Bush as a convenient scapegoat for an economic climate that hadn't improved and foreign conflicts that were still dragging on. But rather than confront reality, they approved a platform calling for universal health care paid for by the deficit-ridden federal government. They endorsed allowing illegal aliens to become citizens (an idea they apparently stole from Bush). They voiced their approval of more state borrowing and increased state spending. They reaffirmed their pledge to protect vernal pools. And, oh yes, they demanded "fair and equitable compensation for legislators."
With planks like that, it's no wonder that a month later, Democrats chose a detached-from-reality retread like Mitchell ("I am not the status quo") as their gubernatorial nominee and sent her out to spread the word ("We have got to change our strategy for growing our economy").