Angus King’s phony independence

Stop trying to fool us, Angus.

I’ll admit, you are a talented salesman. You have built a carefully crafted image over the years, and have created a very successful personal brand. You have used that mythos to make quite a career for yourself.

But what you have built is a phony house of cards, and it is time to just come clean with the truth about who you are. Enough already.

You see, you’ve been telling Maine voters for decades that you are an independent voice that speaks for them. You are a moderate. You are a centrist. You reject the party labels and the politics of the left and the right.

But, that isn’t true. You are a liberal Democrat, and you always have been. Just say so. You might even earn a “strange new respect” from people like me for admitting what we’ve all known for years.

Let’s be honest. You were a lifelong Democrat prior to your run for governor in 1994. You wanted to acquire power, but you knew you would never make it through a Democratic primary that year, so you came up with a wonderful idea.

You would declare yourself an “independent,” and reject the party system. People like that word, after all. It immediately communicates to voters that you don’t think in rigid dogmas, and don’t obey any party masters. You think for yourself. You do what you think is right, and nobody owns you.

It doesn’t have to be true, of course. But you can pretend that it is true, and can cloak yourself in all the flowery self-descriptions of centrism and moderation you can come up with. Voters love that. They are sick of the partisan bickering, and they want independent voices. It couldn’t be any more perfect a plan.

And here’s the best part. As long as you have an inoffensive mannerism and non-confrontational, collaborative style, it won’t matter what you actually do. Make sure you dither and pretend to struggle with decisions for a long time, and you can govern as a big spending, statist liberal and no one will be the wiser.

Which is exactly what you did.

As governor, your record looks exactly like the most liberal of liberal governors across the country. You spent an eye-gouging sum of money. You never met a new program you didn’t like. You expanded the size and scope of government repeatedly. And you left your Democratic successor with a $1.2 billion deficit.

John Baldacci, in his inaugural address, actually said of the mess you left him that “state spending is out of line with state revenues.” When left-wing Democratic governors call you out for irresponsible spending, you know you’re pretty far to the left.

I’ll give you credit, though. You really do make an impressive attempt, despite your record, to convince us that you are somehow in the middle. Unfortunately, for all your bluster, you always end up doing what we know you’ll do.

Take the preposterous notion you floated, after you were elected to the Senate, that you were unsure of who you would ultimately caucus with. During the election you had said repeatedly that you weren’t committing to caucusing with either the Republicans or the Democrats — you’re independent, after all! — and it would only be after long, thoughtful deliberation that you could come to a decision.

Of course, we all knew better. Of course, you did exactly what we all knew you would do and you caucused with your ideological kin.

And while we’re on the subject, you should know that I’d have believed that you were struggling with the decision a bit more easily if the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hadn’t spent more than $400,000 on your behalf, attacking Republican Charlie Summers for you in 2012. But I digress.

Let’s also not forget your hilarious act of political “bravery” in endorsing Eliot Cutler in the 2014 gubernatorial contest, before switching your endorsement to Mike Michaud two months later. Such courage you had, throwing your weight behind whichever left-of-center candidate you thought had a better chance to win. Really demonstrated your independence.

And now, in your latest bit of political fakery, you say you have been struggling with the decision about Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. As you usually do, you say you are conflicted, you delay your decision and then you ultimately do exactly what we all know you are going to do. In this case, you announce you are going to filibuster Gorsuch.

That’s not independence. That’s not moderation. That’s not centrism. That’s just who you are, Angus. A lifelong liberal Democrat masquerading as something he isn’t.

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.