Casting your ballot for independent Angus King — the former governor running for the US Senate seat being vacated by Olympia Snowe — is a vote for a smarter future for Maine.
A vote for King is also a way to send a message to Washington — and the rest of America — that Mainers are fed up with the political gridlock that is paralyzing the nation.
As those who remember King's eight years as governor know, he's an unusual political bird: a bipartisan pragmatist. On social issues, King leans toward the Democrats. In fiscal matters, his sense of prudence should appeal to Republicans.
Being an effective realist in a time of partisan divide requires a high degree of street smarts — and King has that in spades.
A case in point: King's position on the Bush tax cuts. King takes a creative detour around the now-sterile debate between the tax-the-rich-because-they-enjoyed-an-unfair-break point of view and the-affluent-provide-the-capital-that-fuels-business-and-hence-jobs school of thought. What King proposes is to synchronize the expiration of the tax cuts to national rates of economic growth and unemployment. This means that as the economy improves, the Bush tax cuts automatically fade away. King's idea is to focus on results, but in a way that respects the beliefs of the left and the right.
Another example: King promotes natural gas as a cheap, plentiful energy source for the present, but wants to take advantage of the fact that supply is limited as a catalyst for a transition to more renewable options for the future. This would help satisfy short-term needs in a way that promotes long-term viability.
Perhaps the most exciting plank of King's one-man platform is not yet a speck on the agendas of either major political party. That is his idea to improve Internet connectivity throughout rural America where it already exists, and extend its reach where it is lacking.
Its impact in Maine would be obvious. You cannot build a good business or get an education worthy of its name today without a decent Internet hook-up. Maine needs to improve what it has, and then build beyond that.
This is an idea with the potential to forge a bond between all states — Red and Blue — with rural interests.
King is a man of nuance, which is, in truth, not something we're used to in modern American politics.
While this newspaper has yet to take a position on the Simpson-Bowles commission's proposal to restore fiscal sanity to federal spending, we view King's support of it as characteristic of his willingness to make tough and sometimes unpopular decisions in the service of the greater good.
King has not stooped to the entitlement blackmail that characterizes Democrats. Nor has he insulted the public's intelligence with Tea Party fantasies that America can cut its way back to a 1950s style of prosperity.
Folks on the left and the right who dismiss King as a mere middle-of-the-roader, however, misunderstand what he is about. He's a serious thinker with a strong bent for research and well-considered understanding. He's also a savvy politician; witness the way he maneuvered the school laptop program into existence in spite of across-the-board objections. King also holds a statewide perspective that all five of his opponents simply lack.