Politics & Other Mistakes: Three decades of showing disrespect

6 mins read

Al Diamon

Politics & Other Mistakes began in the long-defunct Casco Bay Weekly and turned 30 years old on Nov. 15. That means it was born in 1991, which makes it a millennial, prone to wearing skinny jeans, eating avocado toast and demanding that video games be made an Olympic sport.

Fortunately, my boomer genes have mitigated much of that nonsense, leaving sufficient space for dad jokes, tee-heeing about bodily functions and lyrics from rock songs that no person born in the 21st century has ever heard.

Here are a few examples from my first year, indicating how this all got started and ended up where it did.

Nov. 21, 1991: “Christian Civic League of Maine executive director Jasper Wyman [who’s thinking of running for Congress] may not make the race because of the cost. Wyman estimates a primary campaign against Republicans Tony Payne and Linda Bean … would cost $200,000. And Wyman thinks he’ll need a half-million or more for the general election.”

Housing isn’t the only thing that’s gotten a lot more expensive. But some things haven’t changed at all in three decades.

Nov. 27, 1991: “Liberal Democrats in Greater Portland are preparing to attack their more conservative cousins.”

Back then, the issue was gay rights. Now, it’s racial equity, so maybe we really haven’t come all that far. As this next item indicates, we may not have moved at all.

Dec. 12, 1991: On then-Portland Mayor Tom Allen’s plan to run for governor: “On the down side, being mayor of Portland is only a slightly more effective platform for a gubernatorial bid than being a serial killer. Most of the rest of the state hates Portland and everybody in it.”

Did someone say something about Ethan Strimling for governor?

Feb. 21, 1992: “Just what the hell does the Democratic Party want to be when it grows up? Maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe we should ask: Does the Democratic Party want to grow up at all? Or would the party prefer to continue its bad imitation of Calvin and Hobbes careening downhill on an out-of-control sled, barely missing trees, boulders and chasms, ending in disaster, none the wiser about how it got there? … Deirdre Nice of Portland, the new national committeewoman, summed it up: ‘The party is realizing it needs to move along. I think people would really like things to get done.’ What things? ‘We’ll see,’ said Nice. ‘I don’t know.’”

I miss Calvin and Hobbes. But given the mess in Washington, I feel like the do-nothing Dems never left. I do miss the old-fashioned GOP, though.

June 4, 1992: “[M]ost Republicans who vote in primaries tend not to like [arch-conservatives like Linda Bean] much. They prefer moderate pro-choice candidates such as Bill Cohen, John McKernan and Olympia Snowe.”

No really, that was the way the world was back in ’92. Or was it? Bean beat moderate Tony Payne in the GOP congressional primary. No one, including me saw that coming.

July 23, 1992: “Portland City Manager Robert Ganley is working hard behind the scenes to bury the idea of electing Portland’s mayor. Understandably, he doesn’t like the prospect of losing his job and his considerable political power to some yahoo chosen by the voters.”

And that fight goes on. And on.

I finished up my first year as a columnist by running a two-part comprehensive examination of everyone who was running for governor in 1994. It was a lengthy list, but it didn’t include then-District Attorney Janet Mills. That’s because Mills was keeping her gubernatorial ambitions under wraps, while considering a bid for attorney general.

Oct. 1, 1992: “Mills is said to be ‘aggressively testing the waters’ [for a run against incumbent AG Michael Carpenter], pushing an agenda that includes improving drug prosecutions, and shifting some responsibilities (and power) from the attorney general’s office to the district attorneys. For instance, she’d let the DAs handle most murder cases. … There’s speculation she’d use the AG’s office to mount her own gubernatorial bid in ’94. Mills dismisses that speculation without actually bothering to deny it.”

Mills skipped the AG race in ’94, instead running (and losing) a race for Congress. She didn’t run for AG until 2009 and governor until 2018.

Just call me prescient.

Or call me clueless. Either way, you can do so by emailing aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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