The Phoenix Rises

Since the end of the 2010 elections, I (and this site) have been quiet.

As was announced then, the reason was simple: I had taken a position on the Hill as Director of New Media Communications with Senator Susan Collins.  Obviously it’s simply not possible to be a pundit and a spokesperson/representative of a public official at the same time.  Either you say something controversial which creates a process story about you rather than the work of the person you work for, or you muzzle yourself to be as inoffensive and bland as possible, thus negating the whole reason you write in the first place.  Neither is good.  And so, silent I was.

However, I am no longer with Senator Collins.  I recently accepted a position back in the private sector, and now have the ability to once again do the thing I missed most over the last eight months – write.

For any who are wondering, I greatly enjoyed my time on the Hill in Senator Collins’ office, where I worked with some extraordinarily talented and hard working people on important issues facing Maine and the country.  It was a thrill to work under the shadow of the dome every day, and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves the political process.  Seeing things from the inside was not only eye-opening, but educational.  I miss everyone there, and hope to stop by the Dirksen building for lunch often.

But, back to today.  Obviously Pine Tree Politics has been on life support for some time now – I’ve been searching for replacement writers for a while, and had some interest, but a site like this only works if it is a vehicle for the passions of those who write, and asking anyone else to replicate that for me is both unfair and unrealistic.

Al Diamon correctly noted the following after the 2010 election:

Many of these sites aren’t operating with the goal of making a profit, but are labors of love by individuals and loose groups of amateur political analysts. That has its advantages – low costs because nobody gets paid – and its disadvantages – if the blog’s main writer burns out, there’s often nobody to pick up the slack.

My absence, of course, wasn’t due to being “burned out”, but because my “labor of love” conflicted with professional concerns.  But the point remains the same.  Sites such as Pine Tree Politics survive based on the oxygen that the main drivers of the site feed to the flame, and if that source of oxygen goes away, the flame can die out quickly.  I remember when Al asked me – for that piece – if I was worried that interest would wane and the site would whither on the vine, and I responded, “The only thing I can see minimizing Pine Tree Politics is if I was forced to stop writing for some reason.  Then, who knows what would happen?”  Guess I’m a prophet.

Fortunately for me (probably not so much with you who will be reading me), I am once again in a position to write, and will be providing the missing oxygen once more.  I hope this fills a vacuum of coverage on Maine politics, which by my observation has been maddeningly superficial.

Al asked me for that article if I feared a downtick in traffic and interest when the all consuming electoral politics were over.  I did not then, and I do not now.  Certainly Governor LePage has given hope to all who want “interesting things to read about”, but despite that, I have always believed that there is consistently – election or no election – a strong base of interest in public affairs issues, and anyone who provides interesting and readable content to feed that interest will go far.  Regardless of being an off-year or on.

That, and despite having basically no content, this site continued to receive roughly 200 page views per day.  Why?  I have no idea.  But clearly there is still some interest out there for… something.

Which is just to say that I am back, and I am looking forward to writing once again.  You will notice that to “start fresh”, so to speak, I gave the site a little refresher.  I’m not done tweeking it, but hopefully it looks nice.  Stop by again, won’t you neighbor?

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.