While the effect of LD 1333 on Mainers' health and financial stability is not yet known, the political significance is clear: it's polarized the State House in a way it wasn't previously. "I've never seen anything like it in my time," says Senator Troy Jackson (D-Allagash). "It's just: 'let's just do this and get it over with and the hell with everyone.'"

University of Maine political scientist Mark Brewer says the Republicans' handling of LD 1333 was a departure. "One thing that's been striking about the Maine legislature is that you regularly see individuals from both parties treating their colleagues with respect and congeniality and really working together in a pragmatic way to get things done," he says. "But this health insurance bill dramatically deviated from this norm."

"I think the big question in the last couple of years is if we are seeing a big sea change in Maine's political climate and political culture," says Ron Schmidt, chair of the political science department at the University of Southern Maine. "What's attractive about Maine — especially to someone like me from California where politics are so caustic — is the practical bent where people from both parties work to get things done. And this kind of aggressive campaign can undermine that."

Colin Woodard can be reached at  colin@colinwoodard.com.

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