And so, the excitement of the fall political campaigns begins.
Although, “excitement” might not be the right word to characterize events more precisely described as turgid with occasional interludes of venomous, petty, and inaccurate.
Sort of like golf—without the fresh air.
Oh wait, I forgot self-serving. Still sounds like golf.
If my enhanced description of the run-up to the November election (admittedly, made up for the sole purpose of sucking you into reading this column) strays from the truth, I’m hardly alone in this abuse of the English language. A comparison with the rhetoric surrounding the average gubernatorial campaign leaves my modest meandering away from the realm of the factual looking like holy writ engraved on tablets.
Let’s start with the latest TV ad from the Republican Governors Association in support of Governor Paul LePage. The 60-second spot finishes with a flourish by claiming, “He’s unique, like Maine.”
According to my dictionary, “unique” means “existing as the only one; single; solitary in type or characteristics.” The word is frequently misused by boneheads who mean “unusual,” which LePage certainly is (unusual, not a bonehead). But his agenda is almost entirely derived from national conservative groups, who’ve drafted similar measures in many states. His speaking style, described in the ad as “Blunt, honest,” is comparable to comments one hears in bars toward the end of happy hour.
There’s also the matter of his being unique “like Maine.” If the governor and the state are alike in their uniqueness, then by definition neither is unique. And if the copywriters meant that LePage and Maine are unique in different ways, that wouldn’t necessarily indicate they’re good matches for each other. Michelangelo’s Pieta and North Korean architecture are both unique, but nobody has ever suggested putting one anywhere near the other.
The nonsense about Maine being unique isn’t unique to LePage’s supporters. This pandering to our sense of ourselves as special is a staple of political blather. Democrat Mike (Lots Of People Mistake Me For
Libby Mitchell) Michaud has buckets of it in a video posted on his campaign website.
“Mainers are very hard-working,” Michaud claims, “very friendly, they care about their neighbors. Whether it’s a farmer in Aroostook County, a lobsterman on the coast, someone who’s punching a time clock in the mill, they’re willing to step up to the plate to help someone in need.”
Unless those folks are immigrants; welfare recipients; or members of racial, sexual or religious minorities—in which cases Mainers are as likely as Nebraskans, Californians, or Mississippians to tell those seeking alms to pound sand. We like being flattered about how morally superior we are, but when the real world intrudes, we rarely measure up to these delusions.
Independent Eliot Cutler is no less likely than LePage and Michaud to engage in the practice of overinflating our importance. On Cutler’s website, he states, “The latent power of the Maine brand is extraordinary; there are a few states that are mythic, and Maine is one of them.”
Others include Atlantis, Brigadoon, and Hell. Maine has more in common with some of those than others.
Strangely, this predilection for brown-nosing is less prevalent among candidates for federal offices. Some, such as Republican US Senator Susan Collins, Democratic US Representative Chellie Pingree and Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Emily Cain, rarely resort to kissing voters’ posteriors. Others, such as GOP 2nd District nominee Bruce Poliquin, 1st District Republican hopeful Isaac Misiuk, and Democratic Senate candidate Shenna Bellows, can be seen as either refreshingly realistic or downright negative.