Myths and fables

Politics + Other Mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  January 16, 2014

Republicans don’t believe in the basics of evolution. Democrats don’t believe in basic economics. Liberals oppose prayer in public schools. Conservatives oppose public schools. The right wing thinks there should be total freedom when it comes to guns and none at all when it comes to pregnancy. The left wing thinks there should be freedom of speech, unless it involves saying bad things about minority groups or praying in school.

Political ideology is, to a large extent, based on falsehoods and contradictions. That’s because image counts for more than reality. It’s not about which way candidates turn. It’s about how they spin it.

Here are some recent examples of attempting to foster foolishness into fact: 

1) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud is a defender of gay rights. According to a fundraising letter from Equality Maine president Jane Clayton, “Since 1999, Mike Michaud has stood with our community, voted with our community and has been there to ask others to do the same.” A prominent Democrat emailed me to say Michaud had displayed “quiet leadership” on issues of importance to gays and lesbians.

As a state legislator (before 1999), Michaud consistently opposed expanding civil rights protections to cover sexual orientation. As a congressman, he showed “quiet leadership” by never endorsing gay rights, even though that might have helped ease opposition to the measure in the state’s 2nd District, which he represented. In 2004, he was “there to ask others to do the same,” when he told Project Vote Smart he opposed same-sex marriage. Michaud only announced his support for that law in 2012, after it became likely it would pass. And his recent support for such federal bills as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Respect for Marriage Act was kept as low-key as possible, to avoid upsetting the homophobes back home.

Next up, the Michaud campaign will try telling us he’s always been pro-choice, pro-gun control, and pro-free trade. Oh wait, they’re already claiming the first two.

2)Republican Gov. Paul LePage is responsible for the upturn in Maine’s economy. To start with, there’s no solid evidence an upturn even exists. On what do I base that assertion? On this: “About 47 percent of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work,” LePage told an audience in Falmouth in October. “It’s really bad.”

The administration never supplied any facts to back up that claim, but I’m sure the governor wouldn’t just make it up.

While unemployment has declined the past few months, there’s little indication of significant growth in jobs outside of Greater Portland, an area LePage regards as hostile territory. His version of economic stimulus for those hipster liberals in southern Maine has been to cut municipal revenue sharing, reduce general assistance funding, and relocate the Portland office of the Department of Health and Human Services to cheaper quarters in Millinocket.

While LePage has taken some steps to improve the business climate, it’s unlikely his income tax cut and streamlining of the regulatory apparatus has had much impact to date. Wages don’t appear to be growing, and few new jobs are being created (when the merger of Verso and NewPage paper companies is completed, expect a significant number of well-paid positions to vanish). Whatever negligible improvements can be detected in rural Maine are probably just residue left over from the slight uptick in the national economy.

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