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There is common ground
I believe that the polarization of our society into “the right” and “the left” harms us all. It adds stress and anger to our lives and results in a government that is so dysfunctional it is unable to pass another CARES Act during a time of true national emergency.
However, it may be that the field of common ground is greater than we imagine. While there are clear points of difference, there may also be areas on which we can agree. Most of us want our children to receive a good education, wherever we might live. We want our offspring to find a path that leads to a job that compensates them well enough to raise a family. And we’d like to see them achieve this without acquiring crushing debt.
We all want access to health care without needing to worry that it will bankrupt our family. We want Social Security and Medicare to remain strong for current and future elders.
In a country that represents approximately 4 percent of the world’s population, we house over 20 percent of the world’s prisoners. Early intervention and job training for at-risk youth would be less expensive and lead to a better outcome. Couldn’t we agree on this? And are we really OK with one out of six families in Maine being food insecure?
If we lowered the decibels and talked to each other, we might be able to solve some problems. And we could probably agree: enough with the negative ads.
Where is the Republican Party?
Where is the real Republican Party? When I started voting in 1961 the Republican Party was part of a viable two-party system that makes up America. But I am now asking myself in today’s political climate: where is the real Republican Party?
As a commentator recently wrote, “America needs a Republican Party that represents ordinary people and solves extraordinary problems.” But the current Republican Party has become the cult of Donald Trump supporting his misinformation, rejection of the norms of governance, divisiveness, abuse of our allies, abuse of immigrant children, etc.
Over the years, the Republican Party can claim many accomplishments and its elected representatives supported key legislation encouraging immigration, enacting laws for civil rights, voting rights, national environmental policy, etc. which the current administration is trying to water down or eliminate. As the commentator also wrote, “The current Republican Party has turned its back on its former achievements. It now undermines environmental regulations, rejects science, especially climate science, withdraws from international accords including nuclear weapons restraints, and is increasingly racist.”
In addition, they have lost their way on the response to the COVID-19 epidemic and rejected basic needs of the American public regarding affordable health care, coverage for pre-existing conditions, etc.
Will the real Republican Party please stand up and be counted? We must overwhelmingly reject a president who disputes the validity of absentee ( mail-in) ballots, and will not agree to an orderly transition of power if he loses.
Science should inform policy
In a column titled “Science and politics don’t mix,” Matthew Gagnon misinterprets the phrase “we believe science is real” that appears on some yard-posted signs. Gagnon interprets it to be an arrogant accusation that “science deniers” either don’t understand science or may flippantly deny anything that scientists say.
A more accurate interpretation of the intent of the phrase is that scientific research is our best source of knowledge on those topics where science can be applied. Science does not tell us what our values and goals should be. Science doesn’t say that we should try to preserve human lives or a healthy environment. But it has a lot to say about how to reach those goals. Where scientific knowledge is relevant, public policy decisions should be based on that knowledge. Inconvenient truths should not be denied because they conflict with what one wants to be true.
Gagnon says “Politics changes everything. When policy is tied into scientific conclusions, particularly when it is funded by self-interested politicians, it is able to be — and often is — manipulated and corrupted by that self-interest.” His implication is that politicians who support the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health can tell scientists what conclusions to draw. This is not true.
Politicians cannot tell scientists what conclusions to draw from their research. Rather, the problem is that some politicians and others deny scientific findings that conflict with their personal needs and goals.
Voting is a powerful tool
Our individual right to vote is the most powerful tool we have in shaping the leadership of our national, state and local governments. Big Money is always trying to influence our elections, but ultimately the outcome is decided by the voters. If we choose not to vote, then we are leaving these important decisions up to others and forfeiting our right to criticize the outcomes.
In this pandemic year, absentee voting offers us the opportunity to vote safely and allows us time to make informed decisions. We will receive the ballot ahead of election day, and we can research the candidate’s position on issues before we cast our vote. How many times have people been in the voting booth and found themselves selecting a little-known candidate based on the letter after their name? In the races where ranked choice voting is allowed, people may want to show support for an underdog candidate who more truly represents their values by ranking them first without the fear of splitting the vote.
Voters can obtain an application for their no-excuse absentee ballot now by requesting one from their municipal clerk, or they can request it electronically through the maine.gov website. Completed ballots are due to municipal clerks by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. Request a ballot early, return the ballot early, and don’t forget to sign the back of the return envelope!