Maine’s Grand Old Party sank to a new low this month when its two U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, bolted across the aisle and helped the party of President Obama pass the $800 billion stimulus bill.
If past is prologue, we probably should have expected as much. Snowe and Collins, who pride themselves as being centrist Republicans with a maverick streak in the mold of the late Maine political icon Margaret Chase Smith, have time after time voted or taken positions that are counter to the principles of their own party.
For conservative Maine Republicans, the Snowe-Collins rogue mode has been mostly an irritant, something like a pimple in your nose — annoying but not worth seeing a doctor or making a federal case over. We have known, too, over the years that there is a purely useful political dimension to the independent image that these two have striven so calculatingly to cultivate. It was pragmatic. It helped them curry the favor of Maine’s pretty-much liberal media and, at election time, their middle-of-the-road image attracted crossover votes from Democratic voters.
Back to the issue at hand: the stimulus bill. If you are a Maine Republican willing to give Snowe and Collins the benefit of the doubt, you can reason — even if you disagree — that these two voted their conscience knowing full well that their votes would incur the ire of fellow Republicans, the rest of whom opposed the stimulus bill for a host of good reasons. The cynics among us may be less charitable. For those of us who have run out of patience with all Washington politicians, the Snowe-Collins party bolt was unadulterated Beltway politics, a stunt sure to enhance job security and their status with the Washington in-crowd, as well as the national news media.
Nobody knows whether the stimulus bill will work. The central disagreement among Republicans and Democrats seems to be over the issue of whether it is a wasteful spending bill of unprecedented magnitude, or, indeed, a bona fide stimulus measure of unprecedented magnitude. Either way Snowe and Collins let their party down on at least two counts.
First, if they had stuck with the rest of their party, the Republicans could have forced the Democratic Party to include meaningful and significant tax cuts in the bill. Although you will be hard pressed to find a Democrat who will concede it, we know from historical experience that substantial tax cuts do energize the economy. Secondly, in a philosophical way, Snowe and Collins, by voting for this behemoth spending measure, utterly abandoned just about every guiding principle ever embraced or enunciated by the GOP, the party that sent them both to Washington.
Here are some guiding principles extracted from the mission statement of the Maine Republican Party: “Republicans believe in less government, lower taxes and a responsible fiscal policy … we are united in our guiding principles … we believe that the strength of the U.S. lies with the individual and that every person’s dignity and freedom, liberty and responsibility must be honored and protected … the best government is that which governs least … .”
The leaders of Maine’s Republican party, including Senators Snowe and Collins, need to revisit these party principles. They would do well to contrast the aforementioned beliefs against the Obama stimulus bill and what it represents: big government socialism and fiscal irresponsibility on a scale unprecedented in human history!
It gets worse. If you remove party politics from the debate altogether, you are still left with a stark fact that even an honest, feet-on-the-ground Obama voter cannot deny about the stimulus bill. It is so big as to be frightening in fiscal heft. It takes governmental borrowing into a dark abyss for which there is no model, no bench-mark for evaluation or analysis. As former presidential aspirant John McCain said, “It is generational theft. By saddling our children and grandchildren with this debt … we are, in effect, stealing from our own children and sentencing them to tax burdens and big government like we have never seen.”
What a legacy! My father’s generation made untold sacrifices, suffering and fighting through World War II, to preserve liberty; my generation, with the help of Maine’s nationally respected U.S. senators, is forgoing the sacrifice and trying to save itself on the backs of our children.
V. Paul Reynolds is a resident of Hampden and a registered Republican.