Time to forge a new path in Pine Tree State politics

At a recent event in Washington, D.C., promoting independent candidates for office, Maine’s Terry Hayes, an independent running for governor, said: “… it’s time to break the stranglehold of partisanship and embrace a new, nonpartisan, common sense path forward that puts country over party.” Amen, sister!

The definition of insanity, that if you keep doing what you always did you’ll keep getting what you always got, is quite true when it comes to politics. Too many politicians are proving slow to take the hint that they should spend more time with their families.

The youth uprising following the recent school shooting in Florida has been a wake-up call. Seniors, the world is not yours anymore. It is theirs. It is time to flex your synthetic joints and shuffle aside. You need to be politically euthanized, not cosmetically “youthenized.”

We do not need to be telling our teens and 20- or 30-year-olds how to tackle the issues of the day. After all, how successful have we 60-, 70- and 80-year-olds been? Maybe a force in our day, we should now be politely asking our youth: “How can we help you?” We may yet get an award for “Best Supporting Actor,” but our time has gone. Theirs has come.

Even those who do not yet get the senior citizens discount at the movies should take heed. If you have served in office for a decade or more, do you still have the fire? Are you still able to see new solutions to old problems? Identify new problems? Or do you just love being in office?

Politics does a lot to fossilize one’s thinking. Within the parties, public officials are immersed in an echo chamber and supplied with all the reasons their side is right and the other side wrong, wrong, wrong. Experience is an asset for sure, but at some point experience is outweighed by the vigor of a fresh pair of eyes and an extra helping of passion and energy.

Plenty of voters are not interested in same old, same old. Remember that independents are more numerous than are any party’s members, so here is something for Maine partisans to ponder in the lead-up to the June primary elections. If you give us the same old choices, we might just go looking elsewhere.

On the Democrats’ side, among their 11 candidates are options among the tried and true, most prominently former Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Attorney General Janet Mills. Judging by the daily emails calling on the faithful and repeating standard party lines, they do not come across as new.

Yet the Democrats have a candidate who offers a fresh voice. That would be Adam Cote, but he is not about to get much help from his party unless he wins the primary, which is not easy to do when the party is giving every indication that it is looking elsewhere.

Though he has not held public office, Cote is a Maine native who has put his life on the line in three active duty deployments in the military. An attorney, he is grounded in Maine law. He has been a diligent campaigner all over the state, beginning his efforts to listen and learn early in the race. Cote could bring that something new to his party’s nomination. He exudes a calm intelligence and a sense of command. He speaketh not in the tongues of party rhetoric.

On the Republican side, though Senate President Mike Thibodeau has served in the Legislature for 12 years he, too, can bring something new. In his case it is a new style of leadership, a willingness to listen to all his colleagues, not just his party. He was praised by Senate Democrats for treating them with fairness and respect.

His very efforts to govern in a civil and cooperative manner may make the Republican primary a challenge for him, but dear Republicans, whoever you nominate will have to win a general election.

There are five independents in the race, and those who qualify will all be on the general election ballot. The best known is the aforementioned state treasurer, Terry Hayes. She is sensible, straightforward and jargon-free, an approach to which many Mainers respond. She will be a competitor whether the parties give us what the parties always give us or not.

The candidate pools are beginning to shrink. There are still party candidates with very little exposure. Now is the time when they must make their voices heard or we will be choosing between the few who rise to the top. Political analysts are already using raising money as the surrogate for success. Don’t let that be the test. Think, think, think about who really would be a good governor, and then help make it so.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Retired nurse and former independent Maine State Senator.