Politics & Other Mistakes: Sins and promises

6 mins read

Let’s suppose you wanted Maine’s next governor to be somebody who’d create jobs.

Al Diamon

There’s no app for that.

How about a governor who’d somehow manage to stimulate the economy?

Sorry, no app for that, either.

A gubernatorial candidate who’d deliver a sensible tax policy? Streamlined services? A decent speech?

All those apps are either stuck in the development process or incompatible with your operating system. To address these problems, please contact customer service.

Except, there’s no app for that.

This is surprising, because the 2010 election is supposed to be the one in which the new media finally replace tired old clowns like me with social networks that allow immediate, unfiltered contact between politicians and voters. Setting aside the fact that large numbers of voters would pay good money for an app that prevented any candidate contact whatsoever (suggested name: iCondom), the idea that anybody is going to Twitter his or her way to the Blaine House is still a couple of megabytes shy of a hard drive.

For evidence of that, check out the Web site Augusta Insider (www.augustainsider.us), which has taken on the unenviable task of monitoring the tweets of the gubernatorial twits. Its survey in late August showed Republican Matt Jacobson had the most followers, not a big surprise since Jacobson is considered a serious contender for the GOP nomination. But the gubernatorial hopeful with the second largest following was oddball independent Alex Hammer, who demonstrated in his 2006 run for the same office that he has an excellent chance of failing to qualify for the ballot. Hammer has since been kicked off Twitter for spamming and general weirdness.

The best-known and best-financed candidates have either a modest Twitter presence (Republicans Les Otten and Bruce Poliquin; Democrats Steve Rowe, Rosa Scarcelli and Libby Mitchell) or none at all (the GOP’s Peter Mills and independent Eliot Cutler).

It would appear the winner of this race will be determined less by messages sent to Blackberries, than by these pols’ propensities for comparing apples and oranges and coming up with prune juice.

In short, the next governor will be chosen by the old-fashioned method: lying.

At last, something there’s an app for.

And most of these office-seekers know how to operate it.

Cutler, for example, isn’t one for small-time fibbing. He formulates his gubernatorial campaign promises so they’ll be useful if he ever decides to run for higher office, like deity.

“I think we need to control and shape Maine’s destiny,” he told the Portland Press Herald, “rebuild our foundations, preserve what makes Maine such a great place to live, and invest in a future of opportunity for all Maine people.”

Campaign aides were able to muzzle him before he pledged to turn water into wine and state Rep. John Martin into a pillar of salt.

Mitchell also sets goals that would give pause to the inhabitants of Olympus, Asgard or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Maine will lead in getting health costs under control, while providing access to all,” the state Senate president said in a press release. “Maine will lead in reinventing its farming and fishing and wood products industries to compete in the world economy.”

She didn’t say it, but it seems obvious Maine will also lead in fairy godmothers and genies in bottles.

Poliquin told the Times Record he favors cutting taxes “across the board,” while increasing teacher pay, upgrading environmental protection and creating loads of new jobs.

Sounds good. Also, impossible.

It’s hard to tell whether Mills is telling the truth in his detailed promises of fiscal reform, because no one understands them.

Lynne Williams, being a member of the Green Independent Party, is even less bound by the strictures of reality than other candidates (except, maybe, Hammer). Williams is against wind companies using our air, beverage companies bottling our water and telecommunications companies controlling our Internet.
According to an op-ed she wrote for the Bangor Daily News, she wants to preserve these resources “without regard to the return on capital,” which appears to mean she plans a government takeover of the air, the water and the DSL lines, after which they’d be operated at a loss covered by the taxpayers.

As with the other candidates, Williams is all about jobs, although she’s alone in the field in promising fewer of them.

Fortunately, a boost in joblessness (or an increase in employment) is something Maine’s governor, regardless of who’s in office, is mostly powerless to accomplish. The state’s economy is primarily influenced by factors far beyond the control of mere mortals in Augusta.

Of course, that could change if Cutler or Mitchell gets elected a god.

But given the general quality of the gubernatorial candidates and their promises, the electorate can take some comfort in this fact:

Sometimes, the best app is no app at all.

Whether you’re applauding or appalled, append your comments to an e-mail to aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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