June 21, 2018
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Free political advice for Jon Courtney: smile more, lie less

By Chris Busby

I’m not gonna waste pixels and ink listing all the reasons Jon Courtney will not and should not represent southern Maine in Congress. It’s obvious to just about everyone, Courtney included, that the conservative Republican’s chance of defeating incumbent Democrat Chellie Pingree in the liberal 1st District is slimmer than the chance we’ll ever say the words “Senator Andrew Ian Dodge,” in that order.

Courtney is majority leader of the Maine Senate and has a decade of state legislative experience under his belt. But he nearly lost the Republican primary last month to little-known challenger Patrick Calder, who has never held elected office.

Wealthy Republican donors are not expected to back his campaign against Pingree, wife of gazillionaire hedge fund honcho Donald Sussman. And even if they did, there’s probably enough loose cash beneath the cushions of Pingree’s couch to match whatever sum they contribute. In the latest poll, the congresswoman has almost twice as much support as her Republican rival.

Rather than kick a man when he’s down, I prefer to use this week’s column to offer Courtney some constructive advice.

My first tip: stop lying.

Sen. Courtney, contrary to your assertion during the MPBN debate against Calder in May, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has not and will not make health care “less accessible for people.” You didn’t bother to explain that position (possibly because it’s absurd), and as someone who has led efforts to kick thousands of Mainers off government-subsidized health care this year, you’re not the best advocate for expanding access to coverage.

On a related note, please drop the line you keep using about how you prefer a system in which people can “sit at [their] kitchen table … Google ‘health insurance in Maine,’” and then buy a policy online. No one wants Google to be their primary source of health insurance information, and it sure as heck does not “simplify the process” to initiate it with a query that results in over 100,000 answers.

Here’s another whopper to drop from the stump speech: “Government doesn’t create jobs. Entrepreneurs create jobs.”

Government has, does and, unless we privatize everything, always will create jobs — teachers, cops, firefighters, trash collectors, judges, state senators and members of Congress among them. Furthermore, many respected economists firmly believe the best — and perhaps only — way to lift ourselves out of this recession is for government to create more jobs and provide additional funds to hire more teachers, firefighters and construction workers who will, in turn, spend money on the stuff entrepreneurs are selling. At the MPBN debate, the biggest idea you had to “get our economic engine working again” is to repeal Obamacare. Please try again.

Here’s another suggestion: Take a day or two to research the details of the laws you’ve voted for in recent years. That’ll help you avoid embarrassing moments like the one during the MPBN debate, when you struggled to recall why you supported the 2011 bill that eliminated the pesticide notification registry, thereby making it harder for people to know when pilots plan to spray poison above their homes.

Given your right-wing ideology, you’re not going to peel off any Democratic votes and you’ll be lucky to maintain the support of most Republicans, about half of whom, according to the primary results, wanted someone else on the ballot this year. So you’ve gotta play to the independents, which means downplaying positions you hold that run counter to basic decency and common sense.

For example, you oppose abortion under most circumstances. That’s not a popular position, but you can downplay it by pointing out that you’re not running for the Supreme Court, so there’s no chance you’ll be in a position to overturn Roe v. Wade.

You oppose gay marriage and legal protection from discrimination for gay people. It’s hard to wiggle out those stances. I recommend you just keep your mouth shut when these subjects come up, on or off the campaign trail.

It’s big of you to acknowledge, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, that there’s “probably a little bit” of truth to the fact humans contribute to global warming. Having gone that far, you’re not going to get any oil company money anyway, so you may as well go all-in and recognize the obvious.

Lastly, there’s the charisma thing. Try to gin up some passion for your campaign, even if it is hopeless. Don’t be so negative all time. You seem like a nice guy, Jon. Smile more.

And you get that deer-in-the-headlights look on camera that makes it seem like you’ve been caught in a lie. In most cases, you probably have, but it’s a very big lie, and all the other Republicans are telling it, so you don’t need to feel so self-conscious. Remember: it’ll all be over in just a few more months.

Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard, a monthly magazine about Portland. His column appears here weekly.

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