In November of 2016, four of Maine’s referendum questions were passed. Legalizing weed, a tax on the top 2% of Mainers, changing to Ranked Choice Voting and an increase to the minimum wage. Since then, Republicans have fought tooth and nail to prevent as much of these referenda to be implemented as possible. Overall, they’ve been successful. Weed’s sales has been put off for at least a year, the tax on wealthy Mainers was repealed with the budget, RCV failed a Constitutional Amendment and minimum wage is under unrelenting repeal attempts.
The reason for this behavior from our friends on the right will vary. Most of the time it’s a Constitutional argument saying that these questions aren’t legal. Then there are the excuses that “voters didn’t know what they were voting for.” The list goes on and on. I haven’t ever fallen for any of these obvious party politics excuses. It’s been clear to me that elected Republicans in Maine simply do not agree with the “liberal” results of these questions.
David Trahan, the Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine wrote an opinion piece in the Bangor Daily News citing how the referendum process is just a tool used by liberals to attack rural Mainers. Finally, after all of this time, we finally have a moment of honesty. My Representative from Auburn, Bruce Bickford shared this piece on Facebook, of which I presume is his support of the content.
Not too long ago Bruce told me on Facebook that the reason he supported the repeal of the surtax was because it was Unconstitutional for citizens to levy a tax. When he voted against Ranked Choice Voting changes (down party lines with all other Republicans) it was “because it was Unconstitutional” as well. (I guess they didn’t care that the whole vote was to amend the Constitution. This is clearly not the reasoning for the votes.
By sharing and supporting this type of attack on one half of the state, it is essentially admitting and acknowledging that the fact Republicans are against the referendum results is simply a partisan politics and nothing more. It’s not an ideological difference about the process or a Constitutional difference, it’s just party before country, or in this case, state.
Ironically, much of what was passed in November 2016 helps rural Mainers just as much as anyone else. Raising taxes on the wealthy Q2 (most wealth coming from the southern coastal cities) that would be spread through the state’s education, including the north, contradicts an attack on rural folks. Or the fact that Ranked Choice Voting will help all candidates, including Libertarians and right-leaning Independents, of which Maine is rich. Oh, and the fact that all walks of life including conservative northern rural Mainers like to smoke pot. And lastly, the fact that lots of northern Mainers have minimum wage positions and got a wage hike. I guess this is all just to cater to the urban liberals?
Maine already has one of the strictest, toughest methods for referenda in the country. There is no “fixing the system” as the article states. There is no “…conservative groups figure out they can use the referendum process to push national issues such as right-to-work laws, abortion bans and so on.” The simple fact of the matter is that current Maine Republicans do not have much policy positions that are popular with the citizens of Maine in the same way that Dems do. Obstructionism and destroying faith in the government’s ability to do its job is it. Instead of trying to break the system by demoralizing citizen’s belief in Democracy, how about Republicans adopt policy positions that people are actually excited about? Then the referendum process won’t be such a bad thing.
All opinions are my own and not representative of any other organization, company or person other than me. -James
James is resident of Auburn, a member of the Auburn Democrats, the Maine Young Dems, Maine People’s Alliance, and the Communication’s Coordinator of the Androscoggin County Young Dems