The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Through many centuries this ancient warfare proverb has gradually been transformed to apply to modern political intrigue. At its core, it conveys truth in regards to the short-term battle but rings hollow after the victory.
So is it principled to personally allow an opponent, whom you sharply disagree with, to win an election that will yield long-term ill results for Maine residents about whom you profess to care? We must address this question to Eliot Cutler.
No matter how you slice and dice it, Eliot Cutler will not be the next governor of Maine. His numbers have stagnated in a trend line that ends in a third-place finish with the percentage of votes he gets in the teens, according to every poll taken thus far. These numbers indicate that he cannot win but instead may help deliver the state’s highest office to one major party candidate and deny it to the other.
Republican Paul LePage has a fairly hardened plurality of support hovering in the high 30s in a splintered race where nearly 60 percent of the voters are rejecting him. Approximately 40 percent or better of the vote can assuredly defeat him.
Cutler cannot outright beat LePage; he is not close enough now and will not get very much closer later. But Cutler could pull in just enough of the voters who reject LePage to allow LePage to slide into the governorship.
Eliot Cutler’s small portion of the opposition to Paul LePage is like an insurance policy that could pay off handsomely for LePage. It is hard to believe that Cutler would want to inflict upon the state of Maine four years of gridlock and dysfunction, “blind to consequences” budget slashing, education dismantlement, environmental compromise, veto after veto, growing right wing social issue hubris and continual scapegoating of the poor. Not to mention bully politics and the volatile temperament of Paul LePage.
Without doubt, LePage strategists absolutely want Cutler running hard right up to the election; he will siphon off very few votes from LePage but definitely dilutes the opposition, namely Democrat Libby Mitchell.
I am not opposed to independent candidates. I support the right of any individual to be in the race who has the fortitude to go through the ballot qualification process and who takes the time to put forward his or her ideas. But one generally runs for office independently either to put forth unique perspectives on underplayed issues or to win.
Eliot Cutler is not seeking to inject a marginalized issue into the campaign for debate points. He has stated that he is in this to win and now, when it is apparent that he cannot, he must ask himself why he continues to run, especially since he is not even close to being the candidate that can overtake Paul LePage.
It is very much within Eliot Cutler’s power to help prevent a tea party at the Blaine House. Scrutinizing Cutler’s website and campaigning, one sees no heartfelt attempt to appeal to those who are locked into the fairly solid LePage and tea party capture of about 35 to 40 percent of the electorate. Cutler’s third-way politics appear to be far less in agreement with Paul LePage’s positions and share more of a commitment to responsible governing with Libby Mitchell.
Cutler’s convictions are obviously not going to directly earn him any tea party votes. However, he is perceived as the enemy of the candidate vilified by the tea party enemy, Mitchell, and therefore, perhaps unintentionally, he befriends LePage and the tea party.
President Jimmy Carter said in his inaugural address: “To be true to ourselves, we must be true to others.” Eliot Cutler faces a moment of truth in choosing between being a statesman or a spoiler. It is time for him to decide what his legacy from this election will be.
Bruce Bourgoine is a small-business owner who lives in Readfield. He has been active in a number of Democratic campaigns and contributes regularly to the DirigoBlue.com blog.