Who do Maine Democrats think they’re fooling?

Phil: Don’t you think Maine Democrats launching a flurry of negative attack TV advertisements against five state Senate Republican incumbents is a new low for state politics?

Ethan: A new low? Your memory can’t be that short. Have you forgotten 2002 when Republicans sent out a series of mailers that attacked state Sen. Chris Hall’s English ancestry?

Phil: My point exactly. Those negative mailers were rejected by the voters and did not bring the Republicans a majority.

Ethan: That’s because the Republican attack was inaccurate, bordering xenophobic and ineffective. The Democratic ads simply point out that these senators have been lap dogs for Gov. Paul LePage’s agenda. The claims in the ads about tax cuts for the rich and cuts in health care have been fact-checked as accurate and, hence, will be effective — just as the negative ads your Republican friends ran against Angus King were effective.

Phil: What your party is overlooking — or maybe doesn’t want to acknowledge — is that Democrats voted for the very same legislation you’re pointing to as justification for not re-electing Republicans. The tax cuts your party decries were voted for by 70 percent of Senate Democrats and almost 80 percent of House Democrats! Maine Democrats aren’t fooling anyone with these shenanigans.

Ethan: I will grant you that it was dumb to say Republicans were wrong to vote for something when Democrats voted for the same thing, but the overall point remains the same. The Republicans voted lock-step with LePage to kick people off health care, overturn job-creating bonds and reduce benefits on some of our most needy. This is a charge Republicans will have trouble running from come November.

Phil: Ethan, Democrats voted for many of the same reductions in health care and welfare benefits that you decry. In your world, it’s OK to malign Republicans for voting a certain way, but we should ignore the fact that Democrats voted in support of the very same changes. This is why people turn off politics.

Ethan: Look, you know I have argued long and hard that Democrats abandoned their values this past session when they voted for all those budgets. But the point remains that Republicans in the Legislature have largely followed the lead of our governor, and the result has been our economy losing 1,000 jobs since your people took control.

Phil: Most of those jobs were due to Brunswick Naval Air Station closing, not the result of LePage or Republican control, and you know it. Look, your party may not want to admit it, but they were smart to follow Republican leadership and vote with LePage to assure that our tax policy was fairer and to reduce overspending in our health care system and welfare programs. If you haven’t noticed, many states and cities around the USA are heading towards bankruptcy.

Ethan: While I appreciate the back-handed praise saying that Democrats were smart to act like Republicans, the fact remains that Republicans have been running the show for two years, and the state’s financial position is worse. We are one of only five states verging on re-entering a recession, and we are one of only seven states that saw its economy shrink in 2011. The five Republicans targeted by Democrats were all pivotal in the policies that allowed Maine’s economic downturn to get worse.

Phil: Geez you have the patience of a hornet. After 38 years of Democrats running the state Legislature, Mainers elected Republicans to lead. This session finally sowed the seeds to create an economic environment where jobs can take root. The next session will truly be the defining moment. If voters return Republicans to the majority, much more will be accomplished to reinforce the friendly job-creating environment this state so desperately needs. If voters bring back the Democrats, the next session will become gridlocked, with people trying to bring back policies from 38 years of failed leadership.

Ethan: If voters send Democrats back, it will be a clear rejection of the damage LePage and the Republicans have done to our long-term economic health. Maybe then we’ll have some truly bipartisan solutions, as opposed to the rubber-stamped agenda Republicans gave LePage.

Phil: So, you’re counting on voters choosing Democrats who are acting like Republicans, as opposed to choosing Republicans who are acting like Republicans? If that’s all your negative ads can convey, I suspect you are going to be in the minority for a very long time.