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Phil Harriman, a former town councilor and state senator from Yarmouth, is the founding partner of Lebel & Harriman, a financial services firm. Ethan Strimling, a former mayor and state senator from Portland, is the president of Swing Hard. Turn Left, which promotes progressive policy at the local, state and national levels.
Phil: Democrats censuring members when they don’t fall in line with strict party orthodoxy is a clear signal your party is angry. My party went through similar emotions with former President Donald Trump.
Ethan: They still are. Glorious to watch. I presume you are speaking of U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema who was just censured by the Arizona Democratic Party executive committee?
Phil: Yes. As well as numerous Republicans who were censured for voting to impeach President Donald Trump, including Sen. Susan Collins by a couple of ornery GOP county committees who tried to tell her to stand in the corner.
Ethan: The difference, of course, is that the members of your party who voted to impeach Trump will be exonerated by history. Quite the opposite will be true for the two members of my party who failed to protect voting rights. History will not treat them kindly.
Phil: That is likely the nicest thing I have ever heard you say about Collins. That said, however history treats those members who had the courage to break from the clutches of party leadership, the issue at hand is whether a party committee should be pushing elected officials further away, when this may be exactly what her voters want.
Ethan: To be clear, no one really cares what the executive committee of a party does (my apologies to the Maine Democratic executive committee!), but Sinema has brought this on herself. The party vote just reflects what her party members feel — protecting voting rights is fundamental. But remember, she also voted against increasing the minimum wage and had a hand in killing family and medical leave, universal pre-K, climate change protections, worker rights, etc. These are not fringe policies for a Democrat. They are in our party platform.
Phil: That does not mean they aren’t fringe policies, trust me. We have both annoyed our own parties. It comes with the job if you want our audience to believe we speak for ourselves, and no one else. Party bosses have no business sticking their noses into ideology tests. The voters are the ones who make those decisions.
Ethan: I agree with you that the voters are the ultimate deciders and they should be. But no one is calling on her to resign, the way the Wyoming GOP called for Liz Cheney’s immediate resignation. If they did, I would certainly oppose it. They are simply expressing displeasure and signaling that there may be an uncluttered lane for a primary challenge.
Phil: We are on the same side of the street on that point. No incumbent should be immune from a challenger. And if folks want to organize around an alternative to show their displeasure, may the best person get the most votes. Party leaders should let the people decide. You know, “by the people, for the people, of the people”…
Ethan: For sure. But is your position universal? Party leaders should never speak out if an elected official veers from what they said they would do when they ran?
Phil: Unless the elected leader broke the law, or did something unethical, then it seems useful for a party to focus on maintaining and attracting members who subscribe to the ideology espoused by its leaders, including those who agree with Sinema. Intimidating her to vote for Biden’s agenda (or Collins for Trump’s) is not their place.
Ethan: Just go with a simple, “we will agree to disagree.”
Phil: Old school style alive and well.
Run, Troy, Run
Ethan: Speaking of censure, someone should censure the headline writer for the Bangor Daily News who last week wrote an absurd headline around the closing of the “Run, Troy, Run” PAC I helped found.
Phil: You mean the one that made it seem like you were benefiting from the remaining funds?
Ethan: Yeah, that one. Fortunately, the reporter who actually wrote the story got it right. The PAC has closed and a 501(c)4 I am on the board of (Swing Hard, Turn Left!) has agreed to hold the money until those donors decide what to do with it.
Phil: Apparently, an attention-grabbing headline will get more clicks. So what do you think they’ll do with the remaining funds?
Ethan: Well, it’s not much money, but I expect the same thing that “Run, Troy, Run” was trying to do — push a pro-worker agenda that can help families survive in this economy.
Phil: You mean like Paul LePage’s policy to eliminate the income tax?
Ethan: Yeah, not so much.