A pox on both parties’ houses

He’s got wrinkles, droopy eyes and a worried look. She looks grim. Maybe mad. His arm is around her shoulder protectively. They are supposed to represent Maine seniors, and Mike Michaud is out to ruin them.

We did not quite make it to Labor Day before that first cheesy negative election ad arrived in our mailboxes, courtesy of the Maine Republican Party. The ad took Congressman Michaud to task for his votes on Medicare (cut!), Social Security benefits (tax!) and the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (no!).

Mr. Michaud is depicted in black and white on the mailer, looking as though he is in need of protection himself. “Mike Michaud chooses partisanship.” “Maine Seniors Can’t Afford Mike Michaud.”

No wonder he looks worn out.

The ad also featured a genial but apparently befuddled senior, smiling amiably while a woman points with her ballpoint pen to the label on his medicine bottle. Is this the right approach for 2014?

What happened to “70 is the new 50?”

Mainers are living longer and healthier lives. They are skiing, skating, swimming, hiking and running their way toward 80, should they be fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of leisure time in retirement.

If not, they are hauling lobster traps, swinging a hammer, cutting wood or delivering oil. The suggestion that we are a doddering bunch of decrepit oldsters in need of “protection” seems a bit outdated. The idea of a politician swinging by the hacienda to protect us is downright creepy. Most of us can protect ourselves, thank you very much.

It seems rather ironic that it is the Republicans, always big on personal responsibility, who are playing the “protect our seniors” tune. Aren’t they the ones who think people should stand on their own two feet? But seniors, oh my. They must be carried about in sedan chairs, coddled and “protected” from the likes of Mike Michaud, the terror of the retirement community.

This particular ad is nothing compared to what is about to be unleashed upon us. And it will not be a one-sided affair; both parties will be equally culpable. Never mind if you are a candidate of exemplary honor and integrity. Parties, political action committees and Super PACs can produce what they please, and you can’t do a darned thing about it.

With all their vast resources, one must wonder how the parties can sometimes get it so wrong. A mailing arrived in a Hancock County household a week or two ago, addressed to an individual there, not just to “homeowner.”

The sender – the Democratic National Committee – had taken great pains to make the mailing look like something you would ignore at your peril. “Registered Documents Enclosed,” announced the envelope. “Do Not Tamper!”

The enclosed letter came personally from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. It revealed breathlessly that the recipient was “one of a select group of party leaders from around the nation who are being asked to participate in this 2014 Official Democratic Party Survey.” Oh, and please send money, too.

The honor of being one of a select group of party leaders was a surprise because neither the recipient nor anyone else in the household had ever been a member of the Democratic Party. If Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz can’t even read a voter registration list, should we trust her with our money?

The “survey” was essentially a recitation of Republican sins, cardinal and otherwise. “Which was the most egregious action of the Republican House in 2013? Pick up to three” from the list provided. Not to split hairs, but there can only be one “most.”

According to the survey, Democrats’ goals are a strong U.S. economy, universal access to quality healthcare and high-value schools. No, wait, that’s wrong. The mailing said that Democrats’ goals are “combating Republican obstructionism, winning Democratic victories at the state level, retaking the House of Representatives and protecting our majority in the Senate.” Nary a word about our poor little country.

The Democrats’ appeal was rivaled in its fervent inaccuracy by a Republican phone campaign that reached the very same household, within which dwelled the exact same number of Republicans as Democrats: zero. The caller heaped praise upon the mystified resident who answered for being a leader among Republicans and “a strong supporter of our conservative values.”

As this statement was greeted with hoots of laughter, the aggrieved caller said she ASSUMED she was speaking to a REPUBLICAN. She was not, and why on earth would she assume that?

A wiser person would simply dump the political mail in the trash and stop answering his phone until election day, Nov. 5. But shouldn’t we first summon just a little energy to be offended by how stupid the parties think we are with their “Do Not Tamper” envelopes and their saccharine and misplaced praise of our leadership abilities? They can’t even correctly identify their own party members, so what kind of credibility can they possibly have?

Such blatant and clumsy manipulation does nothing to make us feel any better about our political system. A pox on both their houses, and their senate, too.


Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.