This governmental shutdown must be halted, and Maine could take the lead in bringing it to an end. Here’s how:
Maine’s senators and representatives all know and resent the fact that a small but determined minority of the nation’s minority party has been able to paralyze the federal government. It gives no ground in its varying demands that the Affordable Care Act be weakened or destroyed as a condition for approving the federal budget and raising the national debt limit to avoid a default on our national obligations.
This unreasonable and destructive strategy cries out for responsible bipartisan leadership to denounce it and gather a forceful majority to outwit and outmaneuver the extremist minority bloc.
Who would be better fit for such a role than the congressional delegation of the state of Maine, with its motto Dirigo (I lead) and its proud history of independence and courage? Need I mention Maine’s Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and her 1950 “ Declaration of Conscience” speech?
She was the first elected official who dared to speak out against Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s demagogic abuse of Senate privilege in fanning cold-war hysteria.
Her sentences are eerily applicable today: “The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I do not want to see the Republican party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.
“I doubt if the Republican party could do so, simply because I do not believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans are not that desperate for victory. … As an American, I condemn a Republican Fascist just as much as I condemn a Democrat Communist. … As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.”
Surely Maine’s federal lawmakers — Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, one Republican, an independent and two Democrats, respectively — could join with the single purpose of getting the government moving again. Together, they would make a powerful statement. Other state’s lawmakers could join the fight. And before long, the obsessed and unreasonable — and, yes, anarchistic — minority could face overwhelming defeat and give up their never-to-succeed hijacking effort.
Collins made a strong start in her address Saturday on the Senate floor. She weakened her case, however, by offering the extremist bloc the concession of repealing the tax on medical devices imposed to partly finance Obamacare. That repeal may well eventually be debated and accepted, but the tax must not be negotiated away under the shutdown gun. You don’t bargain with extortionists.
The Maine team could work out a unified position and take the lead, in the spirit of Dirigo and Margaret Chase Smith. And it might even work.
Richard Dudman, who lives in Ellsworth, is the retired senior contributing editor of the Bangor Daily News and chief Washington Correspondent of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.