Daily Archives: August 8, 2017

Maine press must demand answers from LePage | Bangor Daily News

By Lance Dutson

It used to be a given that politicians sought to be on the right side of the press. As the old adage went, “you shouldn’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

But in Maine, in the era of Paul LePage, that ink has become virtually worthless.

Enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, a free and robust press is a pillar of our democracy. As much as the three branches of government hold the power to check and balance each other, a free press serves as the Fourth Estate, a watchdog over all of them.

At least this is how it’s supposed to be.

In our state, the system has broken down. Our press no longer functions as an effective check on power, and more and more serves as a vessel for the dissemination of false information.

The crux of this breakdown is the governor’s declared policy that he will not answer questions from reporters. In a free society, this is unconscionable. But what’s worse is the fact that the Maine press generally accepts it.

LePage has set up a network of friendly platforms to broadcast his message to the people of Maine, including talk radio and right-wing websites. By shutting down direct objective press access, he’s eliminated the need to justify any of his statements, and can instead lapse into hyperbole and outright falsehoods with no fear of being held accountable.

Read the rest of this commentary.

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How Maine people moved Sen. Collins and stopped Trumpcare | Bangor Daily News

By Amy Fried

The stories we tell about politics have consequences, shaping how people and groups act in the future. Tales of courageous politicians, however uplifting, can overlook how citizens influenced them.

After the dramatic failure of the health care vote in the Senate, attention flowed to the three Republicans who broke with their party — Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona — each a protagonist in this drama.

What actually happened shows how much citizens mattered in the health care fight and provides lessons for democracy in the Trump era.

On health care, Collins did not start where she ended and she shifted after considerable grassroots action.

Moreover, confronting Collins meant challenging the most popular elected official in the state, who was used to highly laudatory press.

Using guidelines from the Indivisibles Guide, a document developed by former congressional staff that sparked people to form local chapters, Maine people repeatedly asked Collins to hold a town hall. She never did.

Constituents found her anyway, and spoke to her and her staff in Maine and Washington, D.C. All sides benefited from a Maine political culture that prizes civility. While confrontations could be intense, they were also courteous.

And so, coming out of a Bangor radio station one snowy February day, Collins faced something virtually unprecedented for her — public pressure. After one womanpolitely told her, “I would like to request a public access town hall, please,” the senator walked to her car.

Read the rest of this commentary.