Local voters weigh in ahead of Election Day 



By Ezra Sassaman, special to the Islander 

BAR HARBOR–Election season is underway.  

Absentee ballots are already being cast and can be done so up until Election Day. In-person voting will take place on Nov. 3. Polls will be open in Mount Desert Island towns from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on the Cranberry Isles from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

President Donald Trump is hoping to win reelection on Nov. 3, but Democrats have other plans. They’ve nominated former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 race — a result that pleased the party’s moderates but disappointed many progressives. 

The United States is awash with political disagreements about coronavirus, healthcare, climate change, police violence, protests, unemployment, gun laws, abortion and human rights surrounding race, sexual orientation and gender identity. Traveling around Mount Desert Island, you’re sure to see clusters of signs marking support for political candidates. Walking through Bar Harbor, it’s common to see Biden/Harris 2020 and Trump/Pence 2020 signs on neighboring lawns or facing off across the street from each other. 

So, what’s leading neighbors to support opposing parties and presidential candidates? Which values resonate most with the people whose signs you pass on the sidewalk? Are they happy with their party’s nominee or simply voting for the lesser of two evils? Ezra Sassaman of Bar Harbor interviewed some local voters and collected their thoughts. Here’s what he found.  

Susan Buell, Southwest Harbor 

What issues got you interested in politics? 

Vietnam was a big one. I opposed the war and the draft. I learned to question authority and that we couldn’t trust statements coming from the government. Watching a police riot in 1968, I saw the opposite of “protect and serve.” I saw federal funding for public programs dry up and be instead used to finance war. 

Which issues are important to you now? 

Insurance companies have no business being in healthcare, it’s just a profit-making machine for them. People die because they cannot afford good healthcare and outrageous drug prices. Why do we tolerate this? Black Lives Matter reminds me of Sojourner Truth’s 1851 “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech and the 1968 “I am a Man” signs. Although we have physical and cultural differences, these messages emphasize our common humanity, wants and needs. The officer who killed George Floyd did not treat him like a human. He murdered him even as witnesses were filming— what does that mean about his assumption that he wouldn’t be held accountable? 

Which party is most representative of your values? 

At this point, Republicans are either unapologetic racists or are unwilling to stand up to our unapologetically racist president. Among other things, Trump said there are “good people on both sides” about white nationalists, encouraged his fans to beat up protestors and mocked a disabled reporter. Republicans in office support him anyways, letting their need for power overtake their other values. I’m also worried about fascism. When Trump says he may not honor the voting results, we should believe him. This is going to be the most important election of my lifetime. 

Is the candidate you’re voting for a good representation of their party’s values? 

I wanted Sanders or Warren to win the primary. Biden doesn’t support Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, but at least he’s moveable. I hope progressives in Congress convince him to adopt these important positions. 

Cathy Coston, Bar Harbor 

Which issues got you interested in politics?  

After Sept. 11 [2001], I began paying more attention to politics. That event was also my initiation into more conservative thought. 

Which party is most representative of your values? 

I grew up in a very politicallyinvolved Democratic household. My first Republican vote was during Obama’s second term. But the Democratic Party of today looks nothing like the party my parents supported. I don’t like anyone in the current leadership— whether it’s [Nancy] Pelosi, [Chuck] Schumer or [Adam] Schiff— or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of “The Squad.” Republicans now follow the Constitution better than Democrats. Many ideas coming from the Democratic Party are unconstitutional, whether it’s adding more Supreme Court seats, abolishing the Electoral College, mail-in voting or ranked-choice voting. They want to change the rules because they still haven’t got over the fact that they lost in 2016. Also, Democrats make empty promises to minorities in exchange for their votes. The COVID-19 shutdowns were very eye opening to me. I found it extraordinarily hypocritical that some Democratic governors wouldn’t allow church services in their states but didn’t say anything against the massive protests. Democratic politicians don’t have the guts to condemn violent protests and riots. 

Is the candidate you’re voting for a good representation of their party’s values? 

Trump is the best option Republicans have at the time. One thing I would change is I wish he would stop tweeting. It gives fodder to the other side. I’m glad he’s not a polished politician, but sometimes I wish he’d shut up. His heart is in the right place, but his mouth is often misplaced. 

 

Sofie Dowling , Great Cranberry Island 

Which issues are important to you? 

I’m not particularly interested in politics, but I’m interested in issues that become political because the people in charge have to make the changes and policies for them.A large one is the climate. Growing up on an island, where storms have started putting seaweed as high as the parking lot, makes you very aware of sea level rise. Also, equality. It’s unbelievable to me that people living in the world today wouldn’t have equal rights because of gender, skin color or personal expression. That doesn’t make sense and I will not vote for someone who believes that. 

Is the candidate you’re voting for a good representation of their party’s values? 

Biden represents the values of the previous generation of Democrats. Pretty moderate but considers all of the issues that anyone might be worried about fairly well. Many people my age would like to see a more “gung-ho” candidate, but I recently heard something interesting: We can’t have massive overhauls right now due to the state of our world and our government, we need someone who will heal our nation and try to reverse some of the current terrible things. It’s hard to settle for healing, calm and equilibrium. That’s not what many would like to see happening around these issues that are so important— life-threatening— to massive groups of people. But I believe that we can’t go from where we are now to a place where we can make change without first passing through a level state.

Do you have any other thoughts you want to share? 

If you’ve also recently turned old enough to vote, please do it. In the U.S., for better or for worse, everyone gets a vote. You don’t have to be interested in politics to vote; you just have to be interested in your wellbeing. Think about the conditions of the place where you’ll be growing up and getting a job. Your vote will change the place where you live. 

 

Doris Plumer, Bar Harbor 

Which issues got you interested in politics? 

Vietnam got me interested in politics. University of Maryland was heavily involved with antiwar protests. Students felt so strongly against the war we closed Route 1 in College Park. It was hard to be ambivalent about protesting when National Guardsmen were literally teargassing the dorms. 

Which issues are important to you now? 

I’m a Maine State Nurses’ Association member. I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. In this county, some people do everything right their whole life and lose it all because they get sick and don’t have the right health insurance. Other countries have problems too, but no one wants our system. Some say they “don’t want the government telling us what to do.” Well, the way it is now, insurance companies tell doctors what to do. 

Which party is most representative of your values? 

I’m closer to Democrats, but I wish the party supported Medicare for All. A pandemic is the best time to push for a single-payer system. Everyone— healthy or sick— must be covered under the same system. Now is the time. I also agree with Democrats on abortion. Republicans want to punish women and make it illegal. Democrats want Planned Parenthood to prevent conception in the first place. But more abortions are performed under Republican presidents than under Democratic ones. I don’t think there is a Republican Party or Republican values anymore. It’s just Trump and his family. He’s the biggest threat to democracy I’ve seen in my lifetime. And because of his climate change denial, he’s a threat to the whole world. 

Is the candidate you’re voting for a good representation of their party’s values? 

I wish Biden would support Medicare for All. But his presidency would stop the continuous chaos we’re experiencing right now. He would serve as the president for the whole country, not just his base. 

 

Jay Riley, Bar Harbor 

Which issues are important to you? 

The political “culture” in Washington doesn’t like mavericks. The few large corporations who control something like 90 percent of our “media sources” were comfortable with the status quo. They don’t seem to care for Trump and have thrown journalistic integrity out the window in their coverage of him. There are plenty of sellouts on both sides of the aisle, but Trump has done exactly what I hired him to do. He is so far the most consistent president I’ve seen elected in my lifetime, and feel every day is like Christmas with him in the White House. And had it not been for Obama’s disastrous administration, Trump would not be president today. I survived eight years of Obama and I’m sure my friends sporting different candidate signs than mine will be just fine after eight years of President Trump. In fact, I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Which party is most representative of your values? 

I was a Democrat for 22 years and I supported Trump during that time as well after reading The Art of the Deal in 1989. I switched parties in 2000, casting my first Republican Presidential vote for George W. Bush. I felt he squandered a great deal of political capital and military resources and stretched us too thin, so I voted for Kerry in 2004. My mother marched with MLK when he came to Washington (I believe she heard the “I Have A Dream” speech). I am a big fan of human rights and equal opportunity. I voted to nominate Jesse Jackson as the Democratic candidate for president when he ran in 1984. I almost voted for Obama because I found him well-spoken and charismatic and have always wanted to see the presidency be more than a “whites only” or a “men only” club. However, I was troubled by his radical ideology, and happily did not add voting for him to my voting regrets.

Do you have any other thoughts you want to share? 

An odd filter on my politics is my experience of living in Bangkok during a 1973 uprising. After violent student-led protests, the military strongman who ruled the country at the time gave in to popular will and stepped down. It was surreal visiting familiar places and seeing burned out cars. I watched how quickly things degrade from the heart-pounding excitement of revolution and the hope of nascent democracy with wonderful equality back to business as usual, with very little to show for the upheaval. The experience left me cynical about “revolution” as a fix for a country’s problems. 

 

Rob Wrobel, Bar Harbor 

Which issues got you involved in politics? 

I’m interested in responsible gun laws and progressive issues in general. I remember being in school at MDIHS when Columbine happened, so it was really scary to imagine the same thing taking place here as well. I’m also connected to the Pulse nightclub, the site of another mass shooting. I’ve been there and even stayed on the same floor of the hotel as the shooter. I also have friends who were there on the night of the tragedy. 

Is the candidate you’re voting for a good representation of their party’s values? 

I’ve always been a fan of Joe Biden. I was even Team Joe in 2016. I think people with progressive values should vote for him as well. I saw a great quotation the other day that said something along the lines of “Politics is like waiting for a bus. You don’t necessarily need to catch the bus that is going exactly where you want to go, you can take the one that will get you closest to where you want to be.” 

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