Jared Golden’s dangerous impeachment gambit

I’ll start with an admission: I genuinely like Jared Golden.

To be clear, I view the manner in which he was elected to Congress to be repellent and illegitimate and I think that Bruce Poliquin should be the 2nd Congressional District representative right now.

But Golden is a really decent person. He is pleasant, and smart, and has always honestly answered my questions to him, and I generally think he means well. He is one of the most rational and reasonable Democrats in Congress — which, I admit, is not exactly a high bar.

Golden has spent the better part of his time in Congress so far trying to tend to the sensibilities of the people in his district. He has taken plenty of votes I don’t like, of course, but it is obvious that he has tried pretty hard to not antagonize the voters of the 2nd District. As a neutral analyst, all this would ordinarily make his re-election a decent bet.

Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Gabor Degre | BDN

But Tuesday, Golden announced that he would be voting for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. So much for not antagonizing his district.

Now to continue to be fair to Golden, he was put into a no-win situation by his own party, politically speaking. If he votes to impeach the president, he makes the conservative voters in a conservative district incredibly hostile to him. If he votes against the impeachment, he makes voters in his own party incredibly hostile to him.

Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. In either situation, he will be abandoned by thousands of voters, and that is entirely the fault of Nancy Pelosi and friends for deciding to push forward on this.

Ultimately, he chose to be damned if he does, and his vote for impeachment will hurt his re-election prospects. Significantly.

Golden won election to Congress in 2018, which just so happens to have been the biggest Democratic wave election in Maine in decades. Despite this, he received only 45.58 percent of the first place preference vote in his race, compared to 46.33 percent for Poliquin.

Ultimately, he did “win” the election due to second place votes in the ranked-choice voting system. However, out of the 289,624 people who showed up on Election Day to vote on the 2nd District race, he only received a combination of 142,440 votes, or 49.17 percent of the vote cast.

In contrast, 351,834 ballots were cast in the 2016 presidential election in the 2nd District, giving that election 62,210 more voters than Golden’s. And, 180,818 pulled the lever for Trump, giving him 51.39 percent of the vote.

Interestingly, there were two other right of center candidates — Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin — who attracted significant votes in that race. If the 2016 presidential election had been held with ranked-choice voting, Trump could have accumulated more than 200,000 votes and 57 percent of the vote.

My point here is that Trump was a great deal more successful in Golden’s district in 2016 than Golden was in 2018. More people showed up to vote for him, and he won by a much larger margin.

More importantly, Trump has a strong connection with the people of the 2nd District. The political revolution that took place in this country in 2016 was driven by a mass of voters who hated the establishment, were angry at this country’s elites, and believed that politicians, academics, the wealthy, and the media were openly hostile to them. They felt ignored. They felt betrayed. They believed that no one fought for them.

Then Trump came along, and he reflected those feelings. You are free to doubt how genuine that reflection was, but he did it, and it was why those voters were so strongly attracted to him. He said he wanted to fight for the forgotten men and women of the country, and they believed him.

And what have we seen since he became president? Those same elites that the voters so revile have spent three years shoveling hatred toward Trump, and now they’re trying to remove him from office.

In short, all of Trump’s enemies are the people these voters hold in contempt. So how do you think they feel about attempts to remove the man they voted for to fight for them after feeling ignored for decades?

The answer is they won’t react well, and by voting to impeach the president, Golden has decided to stand with the very elites that the voters in his district so revile. Which is a shame, and may very well be the end of his congressional ambitions.

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.