We’re not big on presidential letters.
We have nothing against those who put pen to paper to talk with the President of the United States or his inner circle and senior staff.
We’re just not sure it matters.
What matters to Mainers is not who’s reading their thoughts – or their letters. What matters is that people in powerful places realize Mainers have thoughts. Mainers aren’t easily compartmentalized, and they don’t comfortably fit into a box for demographers’ purposes. Mainers are fiercely independent. Besides, our geographical location can, in some circles, place us at a political disadvantage.
It’s time people across the United States – especially the national news media – realize that. It’s also time they realize all roads don’t lead to Iowa and New Hampshire. That may be a tough pill to swallow for journalists who every four years assemble for their inside-baseball confabs in the Midwest and across the Maine-New Hampshire state line to determine the next president of the United States.
Political pundits are salivating at the thought that 2014 is less than four weeks away. They will soon begin to pontificate the mid-term congressional elections. They will also begin to set the stage for the 2016 presidential election, a contest they have been savoring since early November of 2012.
Apparently, what really matters is that two rather small states – Iowa and New Hampshire – will ultimately begin to attract presidential hopefuls who realize the importance of their early caucus and primary schedules, and how they can make or break their White House aspirations. One of the first pronouncements in early January of 2014 is guaranteed to be that it is only two years before the Iowa Caucuses.
We think it’s part of a larger debate. To be sure, there’s something fundamentally flawed about a political system that anoints a New Jersey governor presidential timber after he photographs well with President Obama after a major hurricane hits his state, and that same governor is re-elected amid a field of weak opposition.
There’s also something flawed about a system when the governor of Louisiana spends more time in Des Moines, Iowa, than he does in Des Allemands, Louisiana. Unlike the New Jersey governor who couldn’t get over flying in Marine 1, the presidential helicopter, and who was an unabashed admirer of the president’s handling of the crisis, Louisiana’s governor has a cultural indifference when it comes to hospitality toward this president. He showed it after the BP Oil Spill, even while his state bird, the pelican, was dripping more crude oil off its wings than a bad gas guzzler throws on the road. He showed it again during a recent presidential visit to discuss the importance of trade for his state’s largest port.
As a result of these observations, we think these so-called media props for the presidential wannabes would work better some place else.
Why not try Maine?
We came up with this idea when we saw a picture of Maine’s governor, Paul Lepage, on the front page of the Lewiston Sun Journal a few weeks ago. The story was about a group of Somalis who who were adapting to their new home country. LePage, no fan of President Obama but a descendant of immigrants, seemed genuinely at ease with the Somalis. It mades us feel kind of good. Not warm and fuzzy. Just good. With LePage’s track record on tactfulness, that’s not bad.
The thought hit us again when a Somali resident of Lewiston won elective office in Lewiston as a write-in candidate.
We couldn’t help but wonder. If Somalis in Maine resonate with great stories, why aren’t the national media talking about those stories?
We think it’s because they don’t care about Maine’s political scene, unless, of course, the governor goes off message or stays on message, depending on your frame of reference.
The tea party, from which LePage received heavy backing, is not known for a friendly position toward immigration. Moreover, African immigrants, based on some of the placards the tea party has displayed in the past and comments they’ve made about the current president, are certainly not the kind of immigrants they envisioned disembarking at Ellis Island.
Yet, Maine is a sort of ground zero for the true immigrant story, where people from a war-torn country such as Somalia on the horn of African can come to the United States and into Maine – like Iowa and New Hampshire, an overwhelmingly white state with freezing cold weather – and embrace it.
With the right elements and a confluence of labor, leadership and luck, Maine, not Miami, can become the new barometer in the ongoing discussion about immigration reform. Lewiston, not Louisiana, can be known as the true birthplace of the Franco-American experience. Maine, not Montana, is where young white soldiers sacrificed their lives in order to save the Union during the Civil War. Those are big stories that matter to Mainers. They should matter to America.
Indeed, if the president seeks a different sort of vacation spot next summer, maybe his senior staff should start exploring Maine. We’ve had great public officials such as George Mitchell and Olympia Snowe, a Democrat and a Republican who epitomized a cooperative, bipartisan spirit that is simply unheard of today. They were giants who would be considered extremists by some today. Yes, we’re talking about the tea party.
Of course, like Iowa and New Hampshire, we have cold weather and snow plows. Just like Iowa has pork, Maine has lobster. Iowa has a great state fair but Maine has some the awesome ones in Unity and Fryeburg. And Mainers go to the fairs here because they really do engage in the agriculture aspect. They’re not looking to be inteviewed by Brian Williams, Chirs Matthews and Morning Joe. We have all the trappings of a great political landscape, including the landscape itself. Having faced tough times here, politicians from Billings to Biloxi would have to be honest with Mainers.
With an American-born president whose citizenship was once vehemently questioned by the governor’s own tea party, as most believed he was born in Kenya, here’s a chance to show a bright side to immigration by showcasing these new Americans from Somalia who now live in Maine, including one who made it all the way to public office.
Imagine. The immigration debate held from the shores of Maine, and no one, not even Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, has the audacity to ask to see a brith certificate.
The Advertiser Democrat Editorial Board