In light of national polls suggesting that voters might allow Republicans to keep the House and possibly give them the Senate, I can only think of Stockholm syndrome.
I refer, of course, to the phenomenon of a captive developing an irrational sympathy for his or her kidnapper. Having made good on an early announced intention to block the president at every possible turn, the Republican-controlled House has effectively held the country hostage for the past four years. In the process of trying to exact its ransoms, it has shut down the government, threatened default on our debts, given a lasting stain to our international reputation, blocked proposals for infrastructure improvement that could have created new jobs and demonstrated a sweeping refusal to deal with climate change.
Despite recent ABC and CBS polls showing that more than 70 percent of the public disapproves of the job congressional Republicans are doing, other numbers suggest voters appear willing to give their kidnappers a pass to do it again. Stockholm syndrome?
In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage has been no less a master of holding a Legislature hostage, vetoing a record number of bills with a particular prejudice for any federal reform initiated in the Oval Office. The governor’s refusal to expand MaineCare under the Affordable Care Act and accept federal funds that would have paid 100 percent of the costs of health care for 70,000 Mainers for two years — ratcheting down to 90 percent thereafter — not only has left these residents in freefall but contributed to Maine lagging behind the rest of the nation in economic growth.
Sadly, even Sen. Susan Collins has fallen into rank, enabling the excesses of a party that no longer has a place for moderates. What else can explain her refusal to vote for equal pay for women?
In the face of intractable opposition, and despite having inherited two wars and a severe recession, Democrats nonetheless have managed to stabilize the economy, reduce unemployment, spark health care reform and give Joe Biden one of his best lines: “Bin Laden’s dead and GM’s alive.”
Of course, no initiative has galvanized Republican obstructionism more than the Affordable Care Act despite the fact that it was a plan their side proposed in the 1990s. The foundation of what has come to be known as Obamacare was hatched by conservative economists at the Heritage Foundation during the Clinton era. These economists planted the seeds of the plan, which successfully was adopted by then-Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and pointed the way forward for the Affordable Care Act.
Despite this inconvenient truth, Republicans have cried “socialism” when the Affordable Care Act is anything but.
Like it or hate it, Obamacare is a conservative repair to the runaway costs and imbalances in our health care system, and far from the sweeping overhaul that shifting to a single-payer system would have brought. Nonetheless, the GOP, comfortable with its acronym now standing for “General Opposition Party,” preferred to force a government shutdown at a cost of at least $24 billion to the economy (hitting Maine harder than 45 states) and doing an incalculable amount of damage to our world standing. Why? In an attempt to derail implementation of a plan they inspired.
On the eve of the shutdown, 69 percent of the American public said that congressional Republicans were behaving like “spoiled children.” We know what happens if a child throws a tantrum and the parent gives in to it. They do it again because they see that it works.
At what point must the GOP take responsibility for the damage the past four years of reckless and indiscriminate opposition have done to our country? They should not be rewarded and validated for acting like “spoiled children.” And voters should not succumb to Stockholm syndrome.
The remedy starts here in Maine.
Our state needs new leadership. That’s why I’m voting for Mike Michaud and Shenna Bellows. Both have built their lives on public service and have distinguished themselves as leaders with an ability to build coalitions, each having a firm grasp of what economic and environmental sustainability means for Maine.
Wayne Beach is a screenwriter and educator. He lives in Phippsburg and teaches screenwriting at Maine Media Workshops.