The enemy of my enemy

They’re called “Bennett stories,” and pretty much everyone in conservative circles in Maine has one. Seriously, go ask a few people.

Mine is my first real encounter with Erick Bennett, years ago, when I made the mistake of accepting his friend request on Facebook, having noticed a large number of mutual friends.

I saw that he was the owner of a company that supposedly did what I do for a living, so being naturally curious I looked it up. I couldn’t find anything, not even a website for the company (odd for something that said it did digital marketing and communications). But I shrugged my shoulders and moved on; not everyone has to have visible clients or a coherent outreach strategy if they want to own a business.

Then I read that he was the “social media strategist” for the LePage campaign in 2010. Immediately, I got confused, having never heard his name. Having more than a few connections to LePage’s people, the only online people I had ever encountered were Jason Savage, now the executive director of the Maine Republican Party, Aaron Prill, a friend of mine and a professional, and Luke Thomas, an all-around great guy who also happens to be a professional, too.

Yet there Bennett was, claiming to have masterminded the entire online operation. Still is, as a matter of fact, if you go to his website and look at the articles he has collected about himself.

OK, I thought. Maybe he was a low-level volunteer who was tasked with updating Twitter every once and awhile and let it go to his head. Maybe everything I thought I knew about the campaign was wrong.

Still, a few things about this person were not really adding up, but I just moved on.

Then, one day, I made some offhand comment on Facebook about Gov. Mike Huckabee’s potential presidential campaign and how I was displeased at the potshots he kept taking at libertarians. In stepped Bennett with ad hominems flying out of the gate, calling me a host of nasty things for basically not liking Mike Huckabee.

Enjoying a spirited debate, I made the mistake of trying to point out the various non-conservative things in the candidate-in-question’s record, only to evoke one of the most insane, irrational, acid-spitting diatribes I have ever read.

Our brief online friendship ended there, but I have continued to follow his activities since then.

When he decided that he was going to be the next mayor of Portland, my ears perked up. I decided to give him a chance to win me over, so I started watching his YouTube videos about homeless people and the like. I stopped when I got to the three-part, soul-crushing series he ran on all the reasons why he wasn’t a terrible person for being arrested for domestic violence against his ex-wife. (Those videos have wisely been deleted since then.)

I followed his rants and raves from afar, and they looked no more lucid as they had before.

Bennett, of course, failed to get on the ballot and ran as a write-in, and pretty much no one wrote him in.

Then I saw him as the face of something called the “Maine Equal Rights Center.” From what I’ve been able to gather, it consists of a terrible website and a series of press releases, plus a YouTube video of the one time Bennett was able to convince a local television station to interview him.

And here he is again today, running (supposedly) against Sen. Susan Collins for a seat in the United States Senate and making a general disgrace of himself in the process. The Internet has propelled what would have otherwise been a simple online troll with a faux career and a questionable personal history into something supposedly worthy of coverage, based solely on not being Collins.

Look, I get it, Collins is not every Republican’s cup of tea. She isn’t conservative enough for everyone. I understand that.

But beware of the idea that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Bennett is not worthy of any support or defense of his actions simply because he stands on the other side of the room to Collins. He has to prove merit on his own.

And once anyone takes a look at him, that merit evaporates. He can’t raise money. His actions are antagonistic. He — just like in Portland — probably won’t even make the ballot. My advice? Ignore him.

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.