A Platform or a Scaffold?

Posted May 12, 2010, at 6:56 p.m.

Anger at the expanding reach of government — and the high taxes needed to finance this reach — has exploded in the last year. That anger could very well propel a Republican to the Blaine House, after decades of government growth under a Democratic controlled Legislature.

Given this momentum, the new Maine Republican Party platform is especially odd, both in its content and its timing. Worse, it is a disingenuous attempt to corral an angry, but energetic, group within the Republican Party.

It is encouraging that last weekend’s Republican convention drew lots of new people with energy and enthusiasm. But, adopting a platform that emphasizes isolation, opposes United Nations treaties and champions “Austrian Economics” is not only not new, it has little bearing on the concerns of Maine residents.

At a time when Maine has become more Democratic but the largest group of voters is not enrolled in a party, it is a bad strategy for the Republican Party to move toward the right fringe. Tea partiers and others who feel disillusioned and disenfranchised are loud and opinionated. That doesn’t, however, suggest their views are widely shared by Republicans or, more important for those seeking the governorship, Maine voters in general.

Still, the party is eager to get these people on its side. So, at the convention it hurriedly adopted the platform proposed by a contingent from Knox County, surprising even the document’s author. The fact that copies of the platform were not made available to delegates and that there was no discussion of its merits show how far party leaders would go to placate the angry fringe in an effort to ensure they stay within the GOP.

The new platform includes the usual conservative policies such as a reiteration of Second Amendment rights, a call for welfare reform and zero-based budgeting. But, it also contains provisions taken straight from Ron Paul’s speeches and Tea Party meetings. It is doubtful that auditing the Federal Reserve, eliminating the Department of Education and a prohibition in efforts to create a one-world government are the top concerns of Maine voters.

Nothing in the platform is Maine-specific, which is its biggest shortcoming. Maine voters want to know how the next governor plans to create more jobs. Many also want to know how he or she will lower taxes and energy costs. These questions aren’t answered by a document that espouses a return to the principles of Austrian Economics — which, by the way, is a 15th century school that believes the government should stay out of the economy — or says discarding political correctness is necessary to provide for the common defense.

Many of the provisions work against Maine’s best interests. For example, it says the U.S. border must be sealed. This would slow, if not stop, commerce between Maine and Quebec and New Brunswick; not a good way to improve the state’s economy.

Party platforms are largely symbolic, and candidates don’t rely on them. Democrats have included broad principles such as opposing apartheid and the war in Iraq.

But, because of its unique contents, this platform already has been written about by The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and numerous other publications and blogs. The symbolism conveyed, of a state turning inward and on the defensive, is not helpful in moving Maine forward.

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