We’ve called on Maine’s elected leaders many times to work together and compromise. So we would like to point out recent examples of people respecting each other despite their different political views. Overcoming partisanship isn’t just a nicety; it can lead to specific plans for change.
Experiencing a recount after months of campaigning is certainly stressful, but last week Democrat Wayne Werts and Republican Bruce Bickford, both of Auburn, sat together and chatted while officials recounted ballots for nearly five hours.
The two men have known each other more than 20 years and will remain friends, they said, even though Werts beat incumbent Bickford by five votes for the seat to represent Lewiston and Auburn’s Maine House District 70.
“I plan to support him 100 percent,” Bickford said of Werts. During the recount, they joked about the closeness of the race and both emphasized their similarities and moderate viewpoints.
Werts said the closeness of the race only solidifies his moderate stance. “People are tired of the ledge sitting. They want something done, and that means crossing the aisle, that means compromise, that means negotiating and getting something done for the citizens of Maine,” he said.
Clearly the former fire chief’s actions will reveal the truth of his words, but we’re glad to see him starting off right and expressing openness to opposing viewpoints.
In a separate example, two former political rivals are working together to seek ways to reduce the deficit. Former Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, and former state Senate President Rick Bennett, a Republican, joined the Campaign to Fix the Debt. The group is working to find ways to address the country’s $16 trillion debt and prevent the “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year.
The campaign plans to host town hall meetings across Maine to raise awareness and listen to residents’ concerns about the national debt. Bennett, who unsuccessfully ran against Baldacci for Congress in 1994, stressed that the debt is a problem for elected officials of all parties.
“This is a national problem. It’s not a Republican problem, it’s not a Democratic problem. It’s been contributed to by everybody in office. It needs to be solved by everybody in office,” he said.
We stress the need for bipartisanship now, as a Republican-controlled U.S. House and Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate seek to avoid the man-made fiscal cliff at the end of the year, which is when temporary Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire, and automatic spending cuts are set to take effect.
Werts and Bickford, and Bennett and Baldacci, are small but important examples that bipartisanship happens.
Since World War II, voters have elected a split government two-thirds of the time. For a variety of reasons, the political system on a macro level tends to continually balance itself. Disagreements are a healthy and necessary part of that balancing act. It’s the struggle against an opponent where moderation and consensus are achieved.