Who do you love?

me and the manThere 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.

A while back I wrote a piece about Sarah Palin and her appeal to so many of my fellow Americans.

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.


My shirt looks good on you

You know a political nerve has been pinched when Rush Limbaugh apologizes for comments he made on his national radio show.

Rush’s outrageous comments about Sandra Fluke ignited a deafening outcry from women’s groups and reproductive rights advocates this week, and several of his advertisers are now distancing themselves.

Because this is a presidential election year; and because Rush is an unabashedly conservative pundit, his comments are being used by Democrats to underscore the notion that Republicans are waging a war against women.

Nothing like a bit of hypocrisy just a few days before Super Tuesday.

Check the cheering and applause that HBO talk show host Bill Maher received when he described Sarah Palin as a “dumb twat.”

A few nervous giggles, but applause nonetheless…

So, if a Republican commentator demeans women with vitriolic commentary we gather the pitchforks and demand his head on a stick.

But if a liberal commentator does the same thing, we laugh or just look the other way. Is that how it works?

Make no mistake, both Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher are pigs, and their outrageous comments should be condemned by everyone with a pulse, regardless of political affiliation.

California Governor Jerry Brown, a former presidential candidate, apologized for comments that were attributed to him and/or his staff, describing Republican opponent Meg Whitman as a whore during the gubernatorial campaign.

From my perspective, an apology doesn’t cut it.

George Will got it right when he said the word “inappropriate” is far too tame for describing Rush Limbaugh’s comments.

“Inappropriate is when you use your salad fork for your entrée,” Will quipped on ABC’s Good Morning America, saying Republicans are too tepid in their response and afraid of Limbaugh and his massive audience.

Violence against women begins when we give ourselves permission to demean them with our discourse.

As the father of two young men, I have an inherent obligation to speak out about the pervasive nature of gender violence and misogyny.

As an amateur pundit, I just wonder why it’s somehow funny when Bill Maher calls a woman a twat, yet outrageous when Rush Limbaugh infers that a woman is a slut.

Dean Scontras, the Republican who challenged Chellie Pingree in the 2010 First District Congressional race, is also bothered by the crystal-clear hypocrisy.

On his Facebook page, Scontras said that until those who sympathize with the left express equal outrage over Maher’s remarks about Palin, they should remain silent about Rush Limbaugh’s comments.

I disagree.

Although I despise the hypocrisy, remaining silent about Rush Limbaugh’s vile  commentary just because Bill Maher was equally (or arguably more) offensive, only serves to amplify and allow a very real war against women to fester – – if only beneath the surface.

Thus, it is now time for my own public apology.

Last week, I penned a post entitled I’m Done Sharing My Wife.

Although I am confident that people who know me understand the context of my satirical commentary, my words were immediately thrust onto the stage of public discourse via the power of the internet.

A very wise woman once told me that words are like toothpaste. Once you squeeze them out, it is virtually impossible to put them back in their container.

So, I will not edit or delete that post. I will leave it where it remains as a constant reminder of my own hypocrisy.

And, hopefully, my willingness to at least acknowledge my own boorish behavior will serve as an example for how not to behave.

An American Girl

I like Sarah Palin.

I can almost hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from my liberal friends, but…there it is . . . I said it. I put it out on the world-wide web for all to see. You betcha…

It feels good to have that off my chest, sort of like finally admitting that you are powerless over alcohol, corn dogs or soft porn — and are willing, even if only reluctantly, to accept a Higher Power to help you live one day at a time.

Well, she was an American girl, Raised on promises…

I like Sarah Palin, but there a lots of reasons why I don’t want to ever see her occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.(Liberal Democrats, please pause here and catch your breath)

So, how can someone like me “like” Sarah Palin and simultaneously be terrified by the idea of her sitting in the Oval Office, clutching for the suitcase with the ICBM codes?

It’s such a simple lesson in human psychology, yet it apparently lies beyond the grasp of most pundits, late-night talk-show hosts and even seasoned Democratic strategists. I like Sarah Palin because she is just like me.

She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there was a little more to life, somewhere else…

From my perspective, this is the disconnect that seems to fuel an ever expanding divide in American politics. In fact, it’s safe to say that Sarah was the spark, which ignited the roar of the Tea Party…those angry folks with their “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. I know some of these people…these Tea Party malcontents. In fact, one of my closest friends is a devout Tea Partier.

I asked him why he likes Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. His response?

“Not many people want to look at the facts,” he explained. “Our national debt is crushing, and it cannot be blamed on any one political party. We are driving off a cliff of spending, and Americans are busy on Facebook, contemplating their own navels and unwilling or perhaps unable to comprehend the madness that has become our federal government.”

After all it was a great big world, with lots of places to run to . . .

In his book What’s the Matter with Kansas? Thomas Frank discusses how many so-called Red States that were once bastions of Democratic power became the epicenter of resentment against Washington, D.C., academia, the media and all those other elites.

Recent political discourse, Frank says, shifted dramatically from traditional talking points that relied upon economic well-being, strong national defense and the virtues of democracy toward a new focus on hot-button cultural issues, including gay marriage, gun ownership, abortion and so-called “traditional family values,” which are as hard to define as the word irony.

Yeah, and if she had to die, she had one little promise, she was gonna keep

Palin has tapped into that anger and resentment better than anyone else in the last two decades. To her followers and supporters, the relationship is myopic and not sparingly ego-centric.

Sarah Palin is just like me, they say….although not always with such clarity.

Despite that painfully obvious and rather narcissistic response, too many Democrats sneer at the very mention of her name.

Oh yeah, all right. Take it easy, baby. Make it last all night…

Sarah Palin hunts, she shops for diapers at Wal-Mart. Her vernacular is combination of west Kentucky slang laced with Detroit rhythm and swing.

Watching the roaring crowds cheer her name, a housewife can almost imagine herself running for president while her NASCAR-watching husband cracks a beer and admires Sarah for many different reasons.

Face it, the woman looks damn good in a bikini. And maybe that is why so many of Sarah’s most voracious critics are women. Maybe not, but it’s not an original theory of mine.

The more Sarah is attacked, the stronger she seemingly becomes, not only to her base but her own inner strength and eagerness to go in swinging is only fueled by snide remarks, whether they come from Katie Couric or John Stewart.

Sarah Palin is class warfare defined. The more that middle America feels disenfranchised, the greater the odds that Sarah will be thrust even further into the stratosphere of popularity and adoration.

Otherwise normal, rational and level-headed people come completely unglued at even the mention of her name. They don’t talk about the values and importance of their own political ideals and policy goals. Instead, they attack Palin’s lack of education, her vernacular and her lack of sophistication.

They might as well drive into a trailer park and start swinging at toddlers with a baseball bat.

You don’t help someone see your point of view by giving them two black eyes.

When you attack Sarah Palin, you attack everything she has hijacked for her self-promotional agenda.

The vast majority of Americans do not consider themselves elite, yet few people are willing to stand up and proclaim their lack of cognitive reasoning skills, basic geography or limited vocabularies.

Sarah Palin is an American girl, and when you attack her, her beliefs or her simpleton viewscape of the world, you are attacking God, the Bible, gun ownership, simple living, rural values, the American family, people who shop at Walmart, motherhood, and a whole set of iconic images that are as subjective as they are varied.

The title of Frank’s book is evidence of the left’s arrogance and self-induced superioty complex. What’s the matter with Kansas implies that there’s something wrong with Kansas. A more objective title might be…How did the Democrats lose so much of the middle?

That latter title would require some painful introspection. Otherwise, the Democrats will continue to see themselves further marginalized by Sarah Palin and so many others who are following in her footsteps.

After all, Sarah Palin is an American girl…