There are advantages to being independent, but there are also some big disadvantages.
If you don’t believe me, just ask Ted O’Meara, campaign manager for gubernatorial hopeful Eliot Cutler.
In an e-mail to Cutler’s supporters this week, O’Meara praised his team’s hard work and their ability to collect more than 5,000 signatures to ensure that Cutler will be on the November ballot.
But O’Meara also took a swipe at Maine’s political parties, pointing out that campaign rules discourage independent candidates from seeking office.
“Our work was made more challenging by the fact that Independents like Eliot have to collect 4,000 signatures, while the party candidates only have to collect 2,000,” O’Meara wrote. “It’s just the reverse when it comes to fundraising; Eliot can collect only half as much per contributor as the party candidates.
“That’s right: twice the signatures, half the money. Guess who wrote the rules?”
O’Meara goes on to say that “self-serving election laws are the only thing the parties can agree on these days.”
It should be noted that O’Meara was more than happy to be a member of a major political party in the not-too-distant past.
In fact, O’Meara was once the chair of the Maine Republican Party and served as a staffer for both Senator William Cohen and Senator Olympia Snowe.
But his point about party control of Maine politics is valid.
In fact, members of both major parties ought to seriously ponder why an ever-increasing number of Americans are registered as unenrolled voters.
Being “independent” is gaining traction all across the nation, and that spells big problems for the big parties, especially when it comes to fundraising from a smaller pool of voters.
Although the party faithful generally point out that their candidates must endure the expense of grueling primaries, that’s just not the case this year.
Both Democrat Mike Michuad and Republican Paul LePage are unopposed for their respective party’s nomination.
Regardless of whether you support Cutler, we should level the playing field for all candidates. Let’s be independent together!
With less than six months to go before the November election, all three of Maine’s gubernatorial candidates seem to be picking up the pace of their campaigns.
In traditional Maine politics, this sort of ramping up usually comes toward the end of summer, just ahead of a Labor Day surge that leads to an October sprint for the finish.
The early nature of this ramp up is likely tied to the results generated by two recent statewide polls, both of which show Democrat Mike Michaud and Republican Paul LePage in a statistical dead heat. Both polls also show Independent candidate Eliot Cutler in a distant third place.
The numbers from polling conducted by Rasmussen and Pan Atlantic SMS Group had to be disappointing news for Cutler and his team.
Video killed the radio star
Apparently, despite the dismal poll numbers, there is still some concern that Cutler could repeat the 2010 election results, by once again drawing from Democratic voters and giving LePage a second term with a plurality victory.
Cutler, with nothing much to lose, recently unleashed a campaign video to explain why he is NOT splitting the vote.
The video was captured during one of his campaign events in response to a question from a very young voter.
Releasing the video was a very smart move, and it was a very dumb move.
It’s a smart move because Cutler uses video to portray confidence, leadership.
It’s a dumb move because it makes his campaign appear on the defensive some six months before the election.
Regardless of how you feel about Cutler, his campaign or the video, one thing is clear: video is an effective communication tool, especially when it comes to social media. Blogs are read, but videos go viral.
A study conducted in the United Kingdom last year showed what most of us know intuitively, yet what so many of us fail to recognize: A picture is worth a thousand words, but a short video is worth a thousand pictures.
Apparently, all three campaigns could use some work on producing pithy, yet compelling videos.
Another look at the numbers
On a final note, all three campaigns experienced a rather shallow 2 percent increase on their respective Facebook pages, but Michaud’s team scored an 11 percent increase in Twitter followers( 1,7111) during the past month, compared to 3 percent for LePage (1,754) and four percent for Cutler (1.377).
A little help from my friends
And just for the fun of it, I decided to see where my Facebook friends land when it comes to liking the campaigns.
I have 801 Facebook friends (though several do not live in Maine). Of those, 93 of my friends “like” Mike Michaud; 97 “like” Paul LePage; and 154 “like” Eliot Cutler.
1.) The post urges us to “please search for the LePage 2014 website on your computer.”
Oh, I’m not supposed to search under the table or between the seat cushions?
How about this? How about posting a link to your site? You can do that on Facebook.
Instead, the governor’s social media gurus are worried about unintended “filters” that could accompany an embedded link. So, instead they strongly suggest that you use your computer, hunt down the link and then donate.
In fact, donating must be important because they ask you to donate twice in the same paragraph, which almost looks like one giant sentence, considering the absence of punctuation.
2.) The campaign’s post is horrendously long.
Facebook is not Twitter, which requires abbreviated posts. That said, you should not use Facebook to “cut and paste” an entire speech.
A better strategy would be to hook your social media audience into your website. Use social media to tease your message and direct readers back to your website.
3.) If you must go long, give your post some space.
If you insist on your using Facebook like a blog, at least be considerate and allow readers a visual experience that doesn’t look like a bucket of spilled nails.
Insert a line space between paragraphs. Remember, if you want more people reading your posts, make your posts easier to read.
So here’s a primer for Governor LePage and his re-election team:
Voter turnout for Maine’s 2014 Primary Elections on June 10 will be absolutely dismal.
Taxpayers across Maine will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for an absolute non-event; an utter waste of time and resources, all in the name of a Democratic process that doesn’t work without a contest.
In fact, we will be lucky to see voter participation that exceeds the June 1996 state primary, when only 12 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.
Think of it this way, it will be like buying a ticket to watch the Boston Red Sox play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The winners have already been determined.
Unlike the June 2010 Primary four years ago, the gubernatorial candidates for each political party have already been chosen. If only one Democrat goes to the polls somewhere in Maine, Mike Michaud will clinch his party’s nomination in a landslide.
But in 2010, voters of both parties had lots of choices. There were four candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination, and no fewer than seven candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination.
More recently, in 2012, six Republicans and four Democrats fought in the primaries for a chance to fill the shoes of U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe.
This year, Republican Susan Collins has already won her party’s nomination and Shenna Bellows is assured of being the Democratic Party’s sacrificial cow.
But what about the Maine Legislature and the crop of fresh faces ready to head off to Augusta?
Okay, you can stop laughing now.
In fact, you may want to cry because you and all of your neighbors will be funding an entire day of using municipal clerks and voting officials to collect ballots that hardly matter.
Of Maine’s 35 state senate seats, only four will face a primary challenge (three Democratic primaries and one Republican primary)
It’s not much different for the process to fill the 151 chairs in the Maine House of Representatives, where only 19 of the 151 races will see a Primary challenge (8 Democratic primaries and 11 Republican primaries)
In 132 of 151 House Districts in Maine, it doesn’t matter a bit if you go to the polls on June 10. The races for the Blaine House, the U.S. Senate and the Legislature have been pre-determined.
Please do not disturb the slumber of your municipal clerks or voting officials.
Despite all the hoopla about the power of social media tools in political campaigns, what metrics can we use to determine if those tools are effective?
While just about anyone can set up a Twitter account or create a Facebook page, social media tools are only as effective as those who are using them. Although it is widely accepted that social media tools played a big part in President Obama’s 2008 campaign, that type of success is not guaranteed by simply using social media as part of a campaign strategy.
When it comes to Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial race, which of the campaigns is best using social media? More importantly, how do we set aside our individual biases and evaluate the campaigns based solely upon their social media metrics?
At the Brookings Institute’s Center for Technology Innovation, Darrell West offers a mixed review regarding social media and campaign engagement and the awkward transition to actual governance.
Social media are the ultimate in disruptive technology. They change information delivery, business organization, online content, news coverage, and the manner in which individuals process new developments. As shown during the 2008 campaign, these digital tools represented a textbook example of voter mobilization and electoral impact. They were, in the words of Engage Partner Mindy Finn, the “central nervous system” of campaign organizations.
Using social networking outreach tools such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter, a number of Democratic and Republican candidates raised money, identified supporters, built electoral coalitions, and brought people in closer touch with the electoral process.
Today, I have decided to track those metrics on a regular basis and to blog frequently about those campaigns and their use of social media.
Over the last 60 days, each of the Maine gubernatorial campaigns has been active on various social media platforms. But before we begin, it’s important to note that Democrat Mike Michaud is the latest entrant to this race. Both Governor LePage and Eliot Cutler carried over their respective social media support from the 2010 campaign.
Nonetheless, Michaud has seen the greatest increase in social media traffic, earning a 21 percent increase in the number of Twitter followers @Michaud2014, moving from 1,219 Twitter followers on January 20 to 1,475 followers as of March 20, 2014.
Although Governor LePage (@lepage2014) has the greatest number of Twitter followers (1,698) his metrics have increased only 8 percent during the same time period.
Eliot Cutler (@EliotCutler) saw a 10 percent increase in Twitter followers, from 1, 153 to 1,269 followers during the same period.
On Facebook, Cutler still dominates in the total number of Likes for his campaign page (19,824) but saw only a 4 percent increase over the last 60 days, while both Michaud and LePage experienced increases of 10 percent.
When viewed overall, it would appear that Team Cutler has the steepest hill to climb, so far.
Note:Though it’s generally common knowledge, it must be noted that Twitter followers and Facebook fans do not translate directly to the number of supporters for a political candidate. As an example, I follow all three campaigns on Twitter, but will only be voting for one candidate.
There is only one subject I find more fascinating than politics: psychology.
Some of us spend so much of our time focused on the candidates or those elected to public office, yet we barely scratch the surface when it comes to examining the people beyond the headlines and the hype.
Who are those people? You and me, the people in the streets.
At the risk of being redundant to the extreme, I find myself falling back again to the words of Henry David Thoreau: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
My rather loose, modern-day translation?
The masses (you and me) tend to operate on a day-to-day hamster wheel of human obligations: family commitments, jobs and financial security, concerns about the future and the occasional circus: The Red Sox, rock n’ roll or watching Honey Boo-Boo.
The masses crave bread and circuses. And abundance of both typically leads to a sense of apathy when it comes to politics.
This dynamic was true in the days of Caesar, and it has changed little today.
An abundance of bread and circuses allows us the luxury of ignoring the machinations of the political class. But take away the bread or the circuses, and all hell can break loose pretty quickly.
You’re dumb, I’m smart
I spent the better part of this weekend representing one of my clients at the annual Maine Snowmobile Show in Augusta.
As it is every year, statewide political candidates attend the show to press flesh and talk to prospective voters. In about a year, Maine voters will choose the state’s next governor. Today, there are three leading candidates: Republican Paul LePage, the incumbent seeking a second term; Democrat Mike Michaud, a member of Congress; and Independent Candidate Eliot Cutler, who is making a second attempt to live in the Blaine House.
I had the opportunity to speak with all three candidates this weekend. These were brief, perfunctory interactions. Like them, I was there in a professional capacity so — of course — those conversations were limited, professional and cordial.
Because I was working, I did not have the opportunity to follow any of the candidates through the show or to observe all of their interactions with other exhibitors and attendees.
Thus, my observations were anecdotal and certainly limited; but I was able to observe the candidates from a decent vantage point and had the luxury of hearing public reactions long after each of the candidates left the civic center.
I began to wonder about the motivations of those who support LePage, Michaud or Cutler. What makes those people tick? What drives their political preferences? Why do they react positively to one candidate and not the other?
I got some answers to those questions only a few moments after I posted a photo of me and Governor LePage. The reaction from my “friends” was equally swift and clear.
Posting that photo on my Facebook page caused a visceral reaction that brutally revealed a harsh reality.
The angels want to wear my red shoes
One man who I consider to be a close friend made his assessment of the photo with just a pithy comment: “Maybe 100 total IQ points right there.”
Honestly, that comment stung. Without any other context offered, my friend was speculating that Maine’s governor and I had a combined IQ of 100 points, literally translated: on average, the governor and I have a respective IQ of 50 points, meaning that neither of us would be able to function at even the most basic level.
My friend’s comment was endorsed by a couple other Facebook “friends.”
These very same people will be among the first to bemoan a sorry state of political discourse or to champion “civility” and a bi-partisan approach.
Take this to its obvious conclusion: Governor LePage is stupid and so are the people who support him or even those who have the temerity to be photographed standing next to him.
Further commentary on this photo ranged from those who said they would “vomit” if they were within a few feet of the governor to another friend’s description of LePage as a “useless turd.”
What causes such a visceral reaction? Why do people react with such emotion? I suspect it is motivated by fear.
Make no mistake. We see this same dynamic on the political right. Just mentioning President Obama’s name in the wrong crowd can ignite a bonfire of emotion and even asinine comparisons to Adolph Hitler.
When we dismiss Sarah Palin, especially when we run off the rails and make fun of her penchant for shopping at Wal-Mart, her religious beliefs or her love of hunting, NASCAR or her limited education, we are subconsciously pointing the same critical finger at the millions of those who are undeniably loyal to her.
Democrats bemoan the loss of moderate Republicans (code: Republicans who tend to support Democrats).
John McCain was described by the left as an honest, independent maverick who exemplified the proud, glorious and bygone days of a better GOP – – – right up until the day he was selected as the GOP’s nominee to take on Barack Obama in 2008.
Hands down, Governor LePage received the warmest reception at this weekend’s snowmobile show. It was not universal, but it was clear and undeniable. People flocked to him, offering hugs and encouragement.
Whether you like it or can admit it, the 2014 gubernatorial race will be a battle for the political center.
Democrats are at a disadvantage, just as they were in 2010, because their own party is divided between two candidates. The Maine Democratic Party needs a major win in 2014, especially since they were crushed by an “independent” candidate in last year’s senate race.
Democrats would be well-served to better understand LePage’s appeal to those who they routinely dismiss. There are plenty of reasons to vote against LePage, but they also need some even better reasons to vote for Michaud. Otherwise, they can expect the same results we saw three years ago.
Part of me is tempted to let that statement flutter alone in the social media stratosphere without context. I am curious about the the reaction, but I am not anxious to begin looking for a new job, new clients, new friends and a new wife.
Of course, I’m talking here about degrees of racism. But isn’t that the way it usually goes with us garden-variety racists?
Originally, I was going to write this post after speaking with an African-American “acquaintance” of mine, a woman I have long admired from a safe and comfortable distance. We have tentatively scheduled a cup of coffee — or maybe a pint of beer sometime in the next few days, when her schedule settles down.
I know of this woman only through third parties. Recently, we have become “connected” on a few social media platforms. I find her writing haunting and jarring.
So why did I deviate from my original plan?
1.) I am intimidated by this woman; and
2.) This week is so timely for this discussion, this musing of mine. For one, this week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the stirring and famous speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We also have all the fallout from Gov. LePage’s latest verbal snafu; but more importantly . . .
3.) I am afraid that I would be less than honest if I met her before writing this. Meaning: I would try to be more careful, bend to my “white-man guilt” by being overly empathetic and trying desperately not to offend. In summary, I would probably open the flood gates of bullshit.
Others take a shot at redemption in their later years. They either soften or gradually see the light; or — more appropriately — begin smelling the rot of their own garbage. Strom Thurmond comes to mind, here.
I fall asleep at night comforted that I am not David Duke, David Marsters or even Strom Thurmond. I am more like Governor LePage, and more like most people I know.
I am a tiny bit racist. So I get to skate with the hip, the self-aware and the all-so-cool white folks who either ignore their racism or make excuses for it.
It is not excusable.
Physician, heal thyself
I had this race epiphany a few days ago while reading a media report about Governor LePage and his attempt to “clarify” and explain allegations made by anonymous members of his own party. Essentially, LePage denied ever saying that President Obama doesn’t like white people.
The governor’s defense centered upon his assertion that President Obama has repeatedly missed opportunities to heal our nation’s racial tensions, fumbling or ignoring golden opportunities to bring white and black people closer together.
For just one bat-shit crazy second, that explanation almost made sense to me. It was then that I could no longer deny that I was a racist.
Now, before I bring down the full weight and wrath of those ultimately loyal to LePage, allow me to back up.
The governor was a little bit right in his criticism of President Obama on this front. But here’s the problem, LePage almost three years ago abdicated the moral high ground when it comes to easing racial tensions.
Most of us remember that cold day in January 2011 when local and national media went into overdrive regarding LePage’s alleged racism. He didn’t just decline an invitation to attend the annual Martin Luther King Day breakfast in Portland. Instead, he proudly (with what would become his trademark bluster) told reporters that “the NAACP can kiss my butt.”
If LePage is worried about missed opportunities to heal racial divides, he’s got a damn funny way of showing it.
Consider what he could have said. “I’m not sure why you folks in the media are making such a big deal about this. I simply declined an invitation because my schedule is full, but lets all remember that I consistently attended local MLK breakfast events in Waterville during my tenure as mayor. I also have taken a young African-American man into my home and helped raise him as a member of my own family. I strongly resent any implication that I am a racist. Let’s get busy talking about the important issues we are facing in Maine government.”
Nope, LePage could not resist coming on strong, full of sound, fury and arrogance. He began a path of allowing his pride to trump his greed.
How do we move forward?
I do not think our governor is a more successful version of David Duke, but I do think he has missed plenty of opportunities to talk in a meaningful way about an issue that is still very relevant in today’s world — even 50 years after the delivery of the I Have A Dreamspeech.
So, I am also a little bit racist, but I am also a little bit greedy, a little bit of a misogynist and a little too quick with anger.
Unless I am willing to look at these things, to painstaking examine my own heart, I have no authority to opine on these issues. We must be willing to confront the things we don’t like . . . even those things that lurk in the darkness of our own souls. Otherwise, the garbage festers and it can grow and infect other parts of our being.
As I said before, these things are not excusable but there are reasons for their development in even the best of people. Part of it is our cultural and genetic pre-disposition to assimilate within the familiar.
In this way, I suspect strongly that I am not alone; that the majority of folks I know are just a tiny, tiny bit racist. We can work on it if we can be honest about it. If we start with the man in the mirror.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the United States embarked upon a period of “Reconstruction.” Today, we would call in FEMA and lease some trailers.
The concept of giving former slaves 40 acres and a mule as reparation for their slavery was short-lived. Much of that land was eventually returned to its antebellum owners. From time-to-time, some guilt-ridden white folks and a lot of still angry black folks talk about the concept of ‘reparations” as the only way to heal the racial divide. Affirmative-Action programs were apparently a lot easier to digest.
Only weeks before being sworn-in, President Jimmy Carter granted an interview to Playboy magazine. It was the November 1976 issue. I know this because I was 12 years old and was an avid reader of my father’s hidden stacks of Playboy magazines.
Patty McGuire was that month’s centerfold. She was later named Playmate of the Year in 1977. She liked CB radios. I desperately wanted a CB radio back then. I saw Patti, and I knew it was a match made in heaven . . . but I digress.
Carter was trying to heal the cynicism of a post-Watergate nation by being painfully honest. In that issue of Playboy, he confessed to “having lust in my heart.”
Unfortunately, Carter had a lot of other tasks at his feet, many of which did not work out so well. But confessing lust in a Playboy interview is sort of like criticizing missed opportunities for racial healing after telling the Maine chapter of the NAACP to kiss your butt.
Like many of us, Governor Paul LePage is frustrated by welfare abuse, but one of his most recent proposals to reform an undeniably flawed system is misguided and completely misses the mark of an otherwise noble goal.
Among his many other initiatives to rein in government spending and reform Maine’s welfare system, LePage sponsored LD 1411, a bill that would prevent people who qualify for the federal food stamp program from buying soda and so-called “snack foods.”
LD 1411 has garnered bipartisan support. One of the bill’s co-sponsors in State Sen. David Dutremble, a Biddeford Democrat. Others on the left share the governor’s concerns about nutrition and abuse of taxpayer funds.
The bill also seems to have overwhelming public support. A recent online poll in the Portland Press Herald showed that more than 80 percent of participants support the governor’s bill.
But despite the bill’s bi-partisan origins and its broad public support, we all ought to take a closer look at the proposal because it will actually do far more harm than good.
1.) The bill will not save a dime of taxpayer money. Instead, it will likely increase bureaucratic costs. Remember, the bill would not reduce benefits, it simply would exert more government control of an individual’s choice of foods.
2.) Because SNAP is a federal program, the state of Maine will need to get a waiver from the federal government. Considering the fed’s reactions to other waiver requests that were proposed by the LePage Administration, this hurdle seems unrealistic. Given the number of bills that the Legislature has undertaken, we should not be wasting time or state resources on a proposal that has zero chance of becoming reality.
3.) It’s not business friendly. In the unlikely event that LD 1411 finds its way into state law, it would add another layer of government regulations and complexity for merchants, including small and mid-sized grocers who accept federal food stamps.
4.) The bill is targeted as a punitive swipe at those who use food stamps. Yes, many people abuse the food stamp program, but many more truly need and deserve the benefit in order to avoid hunger. We ought to be more focused on investigating and prosecuting welfare abuse than penalizing everyone who is in an unfortunate circumstance.
5.) LD 1411 misdirects our outrage. As we debate LD 1411, we should also remember that food stamps cannot be used to buy alcohol, lottery tickets or tobacco products. Some Maine families receive a monthly cash benefit known as TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families). Unfortunately, that program has too many loopholes and is more commonly abused than food stamps.
6.) Nutrition? While some Democrats and Republicans like the idea of encouraging better nutrition, this bill will do little to reinforce healthy choices. It would not address many other products, such as sugar, corn syrup, powdered drink mix, cookie dough and ice cream. Our emphasis ought to focus on nutritional education.
7.) LD 1411 would prohibit the purchase of some healthy choices, including: bottled juice products and bottled water.
I applaud Governor LePage for his desire to control government spending. He is a fair-minded individual who two years ago set his critics aback, when he denounced a so-called video sting operation of two DHHS offices by right-wing activists. The media didn’t give him much credit, but it shows that LePage is far more human and fair-minded than the gross caricature his opponents have painted.
LePage knows a thing or two about being poor in Maine. He is a self-made man who grew up in an abusive home and found himself alone on the city streets of Lewiston when he was just 11 years old. His story and ultimate success is inspirational.
Our governor is the proverbial poster child for the “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” crowd, and he wants to see other people succeed the same way he did. Hard work, determination and dedication to improving one’s odds for success.
Considering his background and his staunch fiscally conservative beliefs, LePage understands better than most folks that every dollar of welfare funds wasted represents one less dollar for programs, which are absolutely necessary and vital for Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.
I am a little bit like Governor LePage. I am a Republican who grew up in a mill town. But I also received food stamps at one very low point in my life. I doubt that I could have survived what the governor survived as a child, but I do know that a little bit of help and support from Maine’s taxpayers turned out to be a wise investment.