Commentary: Making America “godly” again

By Hugh Bowden

An unsolicited handout appeared in my mailbox this week. The two-sided political message featured Republican legislative candidate John Linnehan sporting a red jersey bearing the words “MAKE AMERICA GODLY AGAIN.” It doesn’t take much pondering to realize it’s a deliberate takeoff on the MAGA movement spawned by you-know-who that has so easily hypnotized millions of gullible Americans, most of whom identify as Republicans.

Linnehan, who calls himself a “constitutionalist patriot,” tells us he wants to be “hired” to represent Ellsworth and Trenton residents in the Maine Legislature. And on the website for his newly established base of operations — Constitution Hall at the Maine Coast Mall — he serves up the following mission statement: “To provide a Patriotic venue to unify all groups, organizations and individuals within Maine that share a loyalty and love for our Constitution, for our God-given Freedoms of Faith, Family and Friends and who share one common goal of TAKING ACTION to stand up for our Constitution.”

That all sounds pretty non-threatening, right?

Well, guess again.

Thanks in part to accounts in this newspaper, we already know that what takes place at Constitution Hall gives lie to that idea of meaningful unity. In recent months, that facility has played host to events at which speakers have attacked Ellsworth teachers with slanderous and untrue accusations, all supposedly in the name of greater parent involvement in education. Scheduled soon is a visit by leaders of the #WalkAway Foundation, coming to support Linnehan’s call for voters to “walk away from the far-left Democratic Party.” Those leaders include the group’s founder, Brandon Straka, who, according to Wikipedia, was charged with and convicted of participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Still think Linnehan is all about unity and standing up for our constitutional freedoms?

I’ve got some news for you, John. There are millions of Democrats, including many such as me in Maine, who are not “far left,” as you label us. Most of us would like nothing better than to see real unity, not the sort you espouse, which is the “my way or the highway” viewpoint held today by extremists of both major parties and brands anyone who disagrees with you as an enemy.

You have long proclaimed your devout Christianity, John. But there are millions of Americans who follow other religions or no religion at all. Under our Constitution, they have rights, too. I’ve read the Bible myself and it doesn’t tell me that Jesus taught his disciples to launch personal attacks against those with differing beliefs or call on them to put into place laws that force others to act according to a single set of religious beliefs. And I’m convinced Jesus would have been appalled at the Republican cult that has grown to embrace all things Trump, however many laws or norms he may violate.

I, too, am concerned for our country. But it isn’t Democratic leaders — left wing or otherwise —who continue to support the “Big Lie” of an aggrieved former president seeking, even now, to overturn a legitimate election. It isn’t Democrats who offer up excuse after excuse for those whose heinous acts caused death and destruction at our nation’s Capitol. It isn’t Democrats who are supporting efforts to make voting as difficult as possible and strip away the rights of women, the poor, people of color and other struggling minorities in a blatant quest for the power — power to ensure that the United States remains dominated by the white Christian right and that others, of whatever culture or ethnicity, need not apply.

The last thing Maine, or any other government entity in our country, needs today is for more “constitutionalist patriots” who share your views to hold office. It is my fervent hope that not a single Democrat in House District 132 will heed your call to “walk away” from the Democratic Party come Election Day. Your version of a “godly” America sounds way too much like a theocracy to me.

A Republican turned Democrat, Hugh Bowden is a retired journalist and a former state legislator. He lives in Ellsworth.

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