Ethan: All I can say is, “I feel your pain.” Two years ago when Democrats were put out to pasture by the voters, I didn’t know what had hit me. In the morning we controlled the Blaine House and both branches of the Legislature. That night, none of it. Sound familiar?
Phil: Sure does, except it took you 40 years to lose total control. We managed to fumble it in 24 months!
Ethan: If it’s any consolation, the last time your party lost that many incumbents in the state Senate was back during the Johnson landslide of 1964. Two years later you were back in power.
Phil: That’s not likely to happen in 2014.
Ethan: From your lips to God’s ears.
Phil: What is clearer to me is that many voters are driven by an issue like abortion where nothing else matters about the candidate. They are either with the voter or against the voter, period.
Ethan: Phil, please know that I think you are a very smart and reasonable man, but if you believe the reason your party lost is because Mainers use a single litmus test for their ballot, you will be in the minority for another 40 years. Better to tell your party to look in the mirror and figure out why they are so out of step on so many fundamental issues like immigration, climate change, abortion, gay marriage and income inequality. Voters can handle people who are different on a few issues, but when you are out of step across the board you get hammered.
Phil: Hear me out before you pontificate. The more concerning issue for me is that America and Maine have fundamentally transformed into a culture where government is the heart and soul of what voters want and need. The notion that America works when government is limited, and that free people create and pursue dreams, is silently fading, and big government and big business now rules.
Ethan: I am not sure if government is our heart and soul, but it is fundamental to our freedom. Safety, education, health care, roads. All of these fundamental functions of government make us freer. And, yes, people understand that. When your party runs on a platform that government must be dismantled, without recognizing the consequences of those actions, the voters will reject that philosophy.
Phil: That’s the point. They have rejected the message of limited government that pays its bills. Rather, those who don’t pay income taxes and those who break the laws of immigration, for example, are telling those who live by the laws and pay taxes that we are not paying our share, that we are not compassionate, that abiding by the Constitution and balancing the books is “extreme.”
Ethan: Yes, a majority around the country have rejected carte blanche limited government because they understand that a healthy government is fundamental to our freedom.
Phil: So help me see the future. How do you assure people who put everything they own on the line to meet payroll, donate to charity and raise their family without government grants and subsidies that taxing them and regulating them more is the right path?
Ethan: I don’t think what people asked for Tuesday was more regulation and more tax — and you certainly didn’t raise your family without the help of government (schools, clean food, laws protecting minors). But voters did reject the ideology of austerity as a way out of our economic doldrums. But, more importantly, what is your party going to do differently? You had the power to enact whatever you wanted. You did exactly that, and people said no. What now?
Phil: How can you say that, Ethan? You can’t say that Democrats aren’t going to raise taxes. They are. And now that the elections are over, you can be sure the Obama administration is going to unleash the regulatory forces at the Environmental Protection Agency, Securities and Exchange, the Labor Department and more. Big government will flourish! Big business will cope and pass along their costs! And the small business person is going to be demoralized. That is where the heart and soul of the economy and inspiration comes from, and it will be crushed.
Ethan: Wow. You are clearly still too angry about this loss to do much reflection. The only advice I can offer is to encourage you to try and stop blaming the voters. Your party has some hard work to do, and they need you to speak up, even though some will be mad at you for it. I had to do it for my party over the last two years, and Lord knows I took some grief. But, in the end, as Tuesday showed, it’s worth it.
Phil: I’m not angry. The people have spoken. I just fear that the people who actually pay the bills are dwindling fast.