Great, but will it work in larger states?
March 13, 2001 8:03 PM   Subscribe

Great, but will it work in larger states? "Maine’s Clean Election Law goes into effect for the 2002 governor’s race, establishing public financing for candidates. Political observers are beginning to realize it may cause a revolution. " A green governor? I almost feel ... Canadian.
posted by foist (6 comments total)
It's not going to work even in Maine, at least not like people are expecting. This is going to turn out to be one of those classic "be careful what you wish for" scenarios. For years third-party proponents have believed that if only they could get their message to The People, they'd get elected in droves. This is going to show them they're wrong; most people simply are not interested in third parties. They like the concept of more choices in theory, but once they find out what the third parties are all about, they stick with the evil that they know.

Of course, even if some third party did end up with a big election win, they'd soon hit up against the biggest problem of all: We don't have a parliamentary political system. There's simply no room for more than two parties. The Democrats and the Greens would end up in some sort of legislative cockfight, while the GOP sat back and laughed. And the Democrats would eventually win said fight.

WRT that "Canadian-style health care" dream, they ought to take a good hard look at Tennessee. That state instituted a bunch of socialist "reforms" to give health care benefits just to the under- and uninsured. In only six years, it's thrown the state into financial chaos, even though the reimbursement rates are so low (and the amount of paperwork so high) that doctors are quitting the program in droves and refusing to see TennCare patients. Even though taxpayers in the other 49 states are forced to pay the vast majority of the cost. It's now at the point where the state only has two choices: A massive tax increase, or abandonment of the program. And an attempt at said tax increase last near led to huge, incredibly angry voter protests in the capital.
posted by aaron at 12:55 AM on March 14, 2001

How does the State of Maine get around the constitutional guarantee of monetary support of political candidates as Free Speech? Not that I'm in any way opposed - since, by extension, this would eventually impact the kind of humongous donations that resulted in a Bush presidency - but unless I'm missing something fundamental, I honestly believe neither the states nor the US Congress are going to be able to make this kind of reform and make it stick without an amendment...
posted by m.polo at 5:27 AM on March 14, 2001

Here in Massachusetts the public approved a Clean Election referendum a couple of years ago, but the speaker of the lower house (who wields more political influence in MA state politics than any one else) has decided to gut the bill by exempting state legislators. AND he's going to get what he wants because any legislator who dares oppose him suddenly finds him/herself losing all of their plum committee appointments.

Strangely enough, the public doesn't seem to mind a bit. People like the idea a lot more than the reality of publicly funded campaigns. Back home in Maine, people are just contrarian enough to give it a try, but to think this will just hand Jonathan Carter carte-blanche to transform Maine into a Green Party Utopia is pretty naive. There's no swell of support for the Maine Greens more than 25 miles outside of Portland, and free money won't change that. Instead, marginal Dems and Reps will benefit.
posted by briank at 10:59 AM on March 14, 2001

What posters may not know (its tough to pick up just from the article) is that Maine has a long, proud history of electing Independent governors. Our current (Angus King) is a two-term Indy, and in the late 70's we had Jim Longley, who was also a two-term Indy.

If this works anywhere it will be here, but not for the reasons the pundits think. The reason it will work is because the party-name labels are often more-or-less irrelevant in Maine politics ... "republican" can stand for a bit more conservative, "democrat" for a bit more liberal, but that's normally the full extent of it. Its no accident that our two "republican" senators (Susan Collins & Olympia Snowe) are viewed as party mavericks in Washington...

Why does this have a shot in Maine? Simple: the active voting population tends to be fairly well informed about the issues, and makes decisions based on issue-based politics, and doesn't normally "vote the party line". If you, as a candidate, can present a package that the active voting population thinks will actually work, they'll vote for you. If you're too radical, they won't.

Its not rocket science.
posted by anastasia at 1:58 PM on March 14, 2001

Yeah, rock out ana. Maine will be lucky enough to have the first Green governor if history is any judge. Your state has what the country begs for — publicly funded elections — and you’ll reap the benefits of it.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:32 PM on March 14, 2001

But "independent" governors aren't the same thing as third-party governors. King had been a Democrat and ran as an independent because the Maine Dems wouldn't support him. Longley was a Republican who did the same thing. With publicly-funded campaigns, guys like these would be able to retain their party affiliations and still run in the party primaries, where they would probably be creamed by the hacks who dominate both parties.

Jonathan Carter has run for governor of Maine several times and gets anemic returns every time. The voting public of Maine knows who he is by now, they just aren't really interested in him or the Green Party.

By contrast, Mainers love to see themselves as contrarian and independent (Maine has the highest percentage of registered "independent" voters in the US). Nevertheless, they have a long history of putting the same tired old pols back into office over and over again (witness Joe Brennan, Jock McKernan).
posted by briank at 6:49 AM on March 15, 2001

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