Saturday, October 20, 2012

King ME: Spoiler be Damned--I'm Voting for Dill

Angus King: Ready to rumble.
Baring some massive effort by Maine Republicans at suppressing the vote on Nov. 6, Angus King is all but assured to become Maine’s next U.S. Senator.

Indeed, the only scenario in which I can envision a different outcome to this race is if King and Maine State Senator, Cynthia Dill split the progressive vote, and inadvertently end up boosting Secretary of State Charlie Summers to victory, a la LePage’s 2010 win. However, Maine liberals and the national Democratic Party are so scared of this outcome they collectively threw their support behind King months ago.
(Incidentally, this so-called “spoiler” effect would be easily avoided if we instituted instant run-off voting for all state races. Maine’s Democrats, however, refuse to touch the issue.)  

Case in point, the section on Maine at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s (DSCC) website does not mention Dill until the “Key Facts,” section at the very bottom. The main paragraph instead talks about “Obama supporter” Angus King. And while there are indeed many Maine voters who will be elated about the former governor replacing outgoing “moderate” Senator Olympia Snowe, I am not one of them.

I am voting for Cynthia Dill. She is not a Green, but she is the closest thing to one. Dill is an unapologetic progressive with strong views on labor and the environment. She is also antiwar, which is a major factor in my decision to support her. In fact, I suspect Dill’s progressive views are the real reason her own party has abandoned her. The Democratic Party has a long history of throwing its own members under the bus. Just look at what happened to Dennis Kucinich who was essentially re-districted out of his own House seat.

I have been quite vocal on this site about my dislike of Angus King. In casual conversation, however, people still seem perplexed about why I am not supporting him. So let me try to clear things up.

I think the biggest misperception about King is that he is a progressive. He is not. And contrary to the assertion of Portland Press Herald columnist Alan Caron, the issues on which King and Dill part ways are hardly, “minor policy differences” (“D.C. money crowd keeps spending on a lost cause,” 10/18/2012).

For instance, Dill supports creating a single-payer health care system. King stands by the Affordable Care Act, but does not support single-payer. (A call to King’s Portland campaign office confirms his preference for maintaining the pay-or-die, for-profit health care system.)

Likewise, Angus King, who casts himself as an environmentalist, supports the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. While President Obama denied the Canadian oil company, TransCanada the permit for the proposed pipeline which would pump dirty, unrefined Canadian tar-sands oil into the U.S., the company has since reapplied for the permit. Leading climate-change scientist James Hansen warns the pipeline would be a “carbon bomb,” accelerating the effects of global-warming exponentially. The NASA scientist goes so far as to tell The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer (11/28/2011) the XL Pipeline, if built, would be “game over for the climate.”

Additionally, King supports “fracking” (or hydraulic fracturing, a controversial natural gas drilling procedure) and increased domestic oil-drilling. And while it is certainly encouraging that the former governor understands and acknowledges the science of global-warming (unlike Summers who believes it’s caused by volcanos), it makes his support for the aforementioned policies all the more baffling. The fact is King is a businessman first, environmentalist second.

On the economic front, King would maintain the Bush tax-cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Like Summers and austerity-pushing Republicans, King remains fixated on the federal deficit, rather than infusing the weak economy with additional stimulus spending in order to generate growth and get people back to work. (I’m with Keynes and Paul Krugman: The way out of a recession is more government spending—not less.)

As governor, King infamously vetoed increases to Maine’s minimum wage on multiple occasions. At the time he adopted GOP talking points, claiming such wage increases would “scare businesses away” from Maine. Get real. If businesses want to be successful they should be willing to pay their employees what they are worth. Minimum wage is currently $7.50 an hour. Nobody can make a living on that. But, once again, Angus King has shown where his true allegiance lies—and it’s not with Maine’s workers.

The one issue where I will cut King some slack is on foreign policy. He supports a (gradual) withdrawal from Afghanistan and notes, on his campaign website, “clearly, our policy is not working…” Well, that much we can both agree on. Unfortunately, he goes on to state, “One threat we currently face is the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, which is a threat to our ally Israel, the U.S. and the world.” Sigh…

Finally, beyond the man himself, I take issue with what Angus King claims to represents. King’s entire reason for running is because Congress is “broken” due to constant partisan bickering. According to this narrative—which has been repeated ad nauseam by the mainstream media—“both parties” have become too ideologically “extreme.” As a result, only politically “moderate” centrists (like King) can break the “gridlock” in Washington.

Except that there is nothing “moderate” about King. He is basically GOP-lite. He supports the vast majority of conservative, pro-corporate policies. Sure, he likes gays and supports abortion. But those are two positive positions among the preceding five paragraph’s worth of right-wing agenda items.

Furthermore, the accusation that “both parties” are to blame for the Washington gridlock is nonsense, more a product of misplaced, “blame-both-sides” journalism than objective reality. The truth is there is one party of far-right obstructionists calling most of the shots, and another of timid, spineless sell-outs too craven to stand up to the other. What is needed then, are not more “moderates,” but more progressives willing to stand up to the radical right. (And, of course, more Greens.)

Alas, I fear this last-minute argument will fall on deaf ears. As I stated at the beginning of this post, this race was essentially over before it ever started. Besides which, liberals who are all signing up for “Team Angus” do not really care about issues. Their one and only prerogative is to prevent the Republican from winning—even if they have to elect a center-right, pro-corporate, anti-taxes elite to do so.


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