Maine’s two senators, among the last of the vanishing breed of moderate Republicans, became the targets of political humor at the annual white-tie Gridiron Dinner in Washington. The skit was a reminder that there often is something special about the state of Maine and its politicians.
Journalist-actors dressed up to look like Republican Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Rand Paul of Kentucky — both anything but moderate — posed as representatives of the tea party movement. They sang about Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to the tune of the old song, “Lady of Spain,” sung by Eddie Fisher. They started right off with the line, “Ladies of Spain, we abhor you/Loyalty means nothing to you.”
The song went on to list a few issues on which they found the Maine senators’ positions objectionable: stimulus money, gays and abortion. It wound up by warning that “Tea party’s now aiming for you/Ladies of Maine, you’ll be toast.”
Toast or not — and you might ask whether it was funny or not — the skit is certainly right about the tea party movement’s disdain for both of Maine’s senators. Sen. Snowe’s expected 2012 re-election campaign is already under attack. Of course the social conservatives hate our two senators. Their independence of judgment is their hallmark, and independence is the last thing the Republican leadership want. That’s a given, and there’s not much to be done about it.
But something else that is indeed worth thinking about and also doing something about is the frequent complaint by liberals that Maine’s senators are not moderate enough, that too often they vote the way their Republican Party leaders want them to. Questions will keep arising on issues ranging from taxes to health care and can include such inflammatory matters as gun control and the Defense of Marriage Act.
Both senators have broken ranks on occasion, and being independent minded, they can be expected to do so in the future. Who is a better judge than our senators themselves on where to break ranks? If you like them, why not leave the decision to them? They probably know better than anyone else when to go along with their party and when to resist. The choices depend not only on rights and wrongs, but also what it takes to get re-elected. And in our system, re-election can be a lot better than going down fighting.