What we learned in the 1972 election
In 1972, I moderated the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s televised debate between Bill Hathaway and Margaret Chase Smith, a civil affair that focused on Smith’s reliance on one close adviser. That was a long time ago, I admit, but it’s still instructive to point out the similarities between that political season and the current one.
Smith, the longtime incumbent Republican senator from Maine, had built a reputation for doughty independence, largely by withholding her vote on significant issues until the last minute — a tactic that made her seem important because leadership and sometimes the president would end up pleading for her support. It was a strategy that kept her in the news, but meant sacrificing any real muscle in the Senate itself.
She looked like the winner of that race until a few weeks before election day, when a reputable Maine poll showed Hathaway — surprisingly — in the lead. In the end, he won.
This year we have Susan Collins, another longtime Republican incumbent with a reputation for independence. The Democrats are mounting a spirited, well-funded primary campaign to pick her opponent; Republicans in the Senate are looking like President Donald Trump’s enablers; the president himself is the object of an impeachment investigation.
Can Collins keep the seat? Should she? In today’s polarized Washington, what’s the value of fence-sitting in the name of moderation, particularly when splitting one’s loyalties can mean sacrificing influence? Times have changed, but not that much: this longtime observer thinks she’ll suffer the same electoral fate as Smith.
A win for America’s scenic byways
As the coordinator of the Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway, I am very grateful to Sen. Susan Collins and her colleagues in Washington for creating and passing a bill reopening nominations for the National Scenic Byway Program. This is a renewal of a wonderful, locally driven program celebrating rural Maine. As a director of the National Scenic Byway Foundation, I continue that applause nationwide, as the program is now reactivated in 49 states.
We are so fortunate to have representatives in Washington that recognize the importance of protecting these special corridors. The process for selecting new National Scenic Byways was dormant for a decade, but now this bill sponsored by Collins and recently signed into law revives the program and enables designation of a round of new byways within one year.
National Scenic Byways have been proven to attract visitors and generate economic growth in rural America. And additional culturally and historically important roads will be preserved for generations to come. Also many thanks to the National Scenic Byway Foundation, Scenic America and a host of responsible organizations collectively known as the Scenic Byways Coalition for spending hundreds of hours helping to make this happen.
Collins brought all that work to fruition for Maine and the nation. Maine is a beautiful state any time of the year, but its brilliance is on full display right now. So please, get out and take a drive around the state on your Maine byways, and enjoy these great spaces in their fall glory.
Support small farms
In response to the Oct. 1 story in the BDN, “Trump farm secretary: No guarantee small farms will survive”: Nearly all farms in Maine, including our dairy farms, are “small farms” under Secretary Sonny Perdue’s definitions. We must work to support these small farms, as they are critical to our food security, and our rural economy.
Between 2012 and 2017, Maine lost 573 farms, many of those small- and medium-sized farms. If the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s policies continue to support a “get big or get out” philosophy, we will continue to see the loss of farms in Maine.
Consolidation in our food system does not lead to better food for consumers, it leads to mega factory farms that pollute our waterways and ruin communities, while producing food that’s lower quality and has to be shipped long distances.
In Maine, the number of young farmers is growing, and organic farms are increasing, providing an example of what small- and medium-sized farmers can provide for our communities: healthy food, healthy environment, solutions to climate change and food security for Mainers. We must continue to ask our elected officials to hold the USDA accountable and to promote policies that will level the playing field for small- and medium-sized farms.
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association