Several months later, I’m still feeling irked about Bill Green, Susan Collins’s smiling pal, who apparently couldn’t give up the spotlight and decided to stump for her. A good deal of what irritates me is his after-the-fact commentary that it was practically a lark for him, a favor for a friend, not any heartfelt political commitment. Which given the stakes in the 2020 election, seems at best, disingenuous. At worst, it’s yet another example of the return of the nativism that drags Maine down.
A letter to the editor at the Portland Press Herald memorably called it “birthright bigotry,” and both Bill Nemitz and Victoria Hugo-Nidal have written about it too, though in my opinion, Nemitz let Green off the hook.
I’m speaking of course of the sly connotations rasied against the candidacy of Sara Gideon, that she was considered unfit to serve the people of Maine because she was not born here and/or, in the incredibly stupid words of one commentator, because she wore a Patagonia jacket in her first ads and not an L. L. Bean one. Dude, Yvon Chouinard was born in Lewiston and has more blue-collar cred than you’ll ever get.
I’ve railed about this before, the native card, the dismissal of anything and anyone not resident in the state for at least 5 generations, but what galled me even more is my sense that, despite her native status, Maine voted for Collins more in favor of pork over progress. Her origins in the County were a convenient excuse.
Collins’s main selling point for her candidacy was her seniority, which allows her to rake in benefits for specific Maine interests: the lobster industry, Bath Iron Works. Her reelection apparently absolves her of responsibility for anyone who cannot partake in that particular pork pie. But worse, to preserve the state’s access, Collins twists herself into widening gyres of noncommitment and “deep concern” on issues far more fundamental to humans and the country as a whole than a bigger paycheck every year: healthcare, human rights, immigration, the rule of law. She traded her duty to represent all of Maine for a bigger shovel at the trough. Which is excellent if you’re one of the lucky recipients, and not so good if you expect her to represent a large part of this state’s need for living wages, healthcare that doesn’t leave you broke, and a respect for all places of origin, whether Maine, Massachusetts, or Mali.
I’m enough of an optimist to feel the change that’s coming, and I know it will be slow. But I look forward to a time when my, yes, adopted state understands that forward motion doesn’t negate history, that we can all progress without succumbing to a xenophobia that makes many of us look both greedy and afraid.