State of Maine: Party platforms unlikely to move the needle in terms of support



Maine’s two major political parties have held their conventions, and there were no surprises. The platforms approved by the conventions reflect the current ideological contrasts between the parties. Neither one gave Maine voters much cause to reconsider their allegiance to one party or the other.

Republicans met first, in late April. They brought a proposed party platform that included boilerplate language on Republican principles: supporting and defending the state constitution, lowering taxes and reducing government regulations and mandates and opposing “progressive policies which tend to harm Maine workers, families, and businesses…” The platform was approved, with just one amendment presented on the floor of the convention.

Platform section V. reads: “The most effective government is closest to the people and the least intrusive…” Paragraph 3 says “Individuals are responsible for, and have the right to make, decisions affecting their lives and well-being…” There is a glaring exception to this right, and that is the right of a woman to determine her own reproductive choices.

It is difficult to accept a platform advocating the “least intrusive” government as one that promotes an individual’s “right to make decisions affecting their lives” from a party that has undertaken to make that decision on behalf of all women, regardless of circumstances, when it comes to abortion.

That right to make “decisions affecting their lives” is taken away from women when it comes to one of the most challenging and intimate decisions of their lives, a pregnancy that will have a profound impact on their health, their future and their family’s well-being. In that case, the decision will be made on their behalf by their political party.

The parties also differ on education. “Maine’s colleges and universities,” says the Republican platform, “should be marketplaces of ideas where any individual’s political and religious beliefs may be expressed and respected…” Really?

At the K-12 level, there is no room for the marketplace of ideas. It is the marketplace of ideology. The one amendment to the platform prevents sexually based material for any student in the K-12 years. “Sexually based material” apparently means sex education, which, in 2022, includes issues of gender identification as well as the more standard fare of sexual awareness, the right to refuse sexual activity and pregnancy prevention.

Sexual activity is alive and well in high school students, and often in kids younger than that. As much as older generations would rather think that is not happening, it is. Kids equipped with an understanding of the pressures and possible outcomes of sexual behavior in their teens are kids who are better equipped to make the choice of avoiding behaviors that will limit their futures.

The Republican Party itself was not of one mind about the issue. Some felt that sex education should be part of the curriculum for older students, but not for kindergarten through fourth grade. The convention voted the stronger restriction – no sex education in the K-12 grades.

The idea that all this should be left to parents would be just fine if all parents were equally equipped to take it on. They are not. Some parents are absent, unengaged, ill-informed or unwilling. The schools could help fill that gap, but not if Republicans have their way.

Democrats gathered this past weekend. Their proposed platform, like the Republicans’, put forward the traditional values of the Democratic Party, including “food, housing, health care, education and reproductive freedom.” Health care reform, including an “effective public health system,” featured prominently, along with “full funding of public education.”

On this subject Democrats put space between them and Republicans, advocating “a curriculum guided by educators, not corrupted by political agendas rooted in prejudice or unhinged from reality.” They also came out for “bodily autonomy” and the incorporation of the Equal Rights Amendment into the Maine Constitution to protect women’s rights.

The rights of the indigenous peoples of Maine, veterans’ health care and housing and protections for “immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees” are also enshrined in the Democratic platform. The concentration of wealth, free and fair voting and combating “disinformation,” “factional political violence, hate speech and verbal aggression” are enumerated.

It is this recitation of civil rights for a wide variety of constituencies that separates Democrats, for better or worse, from Republicans. Democrats address crime, the war on drugs, minimum sentencing and overburdened courts, climate change, economic and environmental justice, “responsible and accountable gun ownership” that is “compatible with Maine’s long-standing tradition of hunting and firearm ownership,” international trade and weapons of mass destruction. Some 30 amendments were considered but only one, described as “minor,” was adopted.

Bottom line? As much as party faithfuls will parse platforms word by word, most members will give them short shrift, and few will refer to them until the next convention. It is the legislative proposals that really define party roadmaps.

 

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.

 

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.

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