Archive for category Maine

Maine’s Sensible Republicans

Tea-party backed Governor Paul Le Page has sure grabbed headlines since taking office.   He recently made the Colbert Report and Daily Show (not his first mentions on either) for the removal of a “pro-labor” mural from the Department of Labor.  “Where are the bosses?”  he asked, claiming that “both sides” should be honored by a mural.   When told there may be protesters he said he’d “laugh at the idiots.”    Now it appears Maine might have to repay $60,000 of federal funds used for the mural if it isn’t displayed; is this the best way to spend Maine’s tax dollars?

Le Page has made some solid arguments about the problems facing Maine, and a switch of the Governorship and legislature to the GOP is not a bad thing.   Good democratic governance requires transfers of power to keep ideas fresh, leaders on their toes, and assure accountability.

Le Page’s comments and his brusque anti-labor pro-business approach to regulations, the environment and taxes had already aroused Maine’s democratic base.   Yet the Republicans have a chance to show they can govern and make reforms the Democrats had been unable to make.   Fearing that the Governor’s rhetoric and attitude threaten that, some of Maine’s top Republican lawmakers co-signed an op-ed entitled “Tired of Diversions from Government by disrespect.” In the piece they criticize Governor Le Page and call for a more civil dialogue.

They are careful to note that they are not opposed to Le Page’s policies.   I saw him speak on campus last week, a guest of adjunct professor Tom Saviello, a Republican State Senator and one of the co-signatories on the op-ed.   The governor defended his positions in a rational manner, using humor (often self-deprecating) well.   There were numerous points I disagreed with, but I also found he made sense on others.   He refrained from the kind of outburst that makes the news, and even looked rather dignified when a protester — an older woman, obviously not a UMF student — snuck in (it was not an open event) and yelled “tax the rich!”   She was removed, and in contrast students asked polite but often very critical questions about Le Page’s policies.    Political discourse as it should be.

The letter displays a desire to keep the Maine tradition of respectful disagreement.  It condemns the idea that opponents should be belittled, ridiculed or mocked.   That isn’t the tradition of Maine politics, nor does it reflect how the two parties have done business over the years.     People of diverse opinions should be given respect; politics is about debate and compromise.   The Governor’s outbursts give red meat to the tea partiers, which may be fine in an election, but actually undermine his position when he’s governing a state.  He won the election with 39% of the vote as the opposition was divided (both to his left), the politics of governing require more than appeasing the base.

Le Page is also not a career politician, he’s been a ‘boss,’ meaning he’s used to being able to say what he wants and not worrying much about the consequences.     While some think it’s refreshing to hear such blunt ‘off the cuff’ language, many Republicans believe it is pushing independents into the Democratic camp and risking a severe backlash in 2012.   Le Page isn’t up for re-election then, but many Republicans fear losing their legislative majorities (just won last year).   Moreover, I think they are motivated by a personal desire to see civility in state government.    Let Wisconsin have the legacy of Joe McCarthy, Maine has Margaret Chase Smith (the first Republican Senator to actively denounce McCarthy).

The state of Maine isn’t in crisis, but as an aging state with recession induced budget shortfalls and too much debt, there are challenges.    Each party has policies reflecting not just ideas but also interests.  The Republicans and Democrats both have to avoid angering groups that support them.   That’s what makes compromise so important, it’s a way for the two sides to break with core interest groups but with cover — ‘we’d have liked to do more but this is the best we could do.’

In the rest of the country it appears a kind of political pathology has overcome people – it is seen as somehow virtuous and “principled” to refuse to compromise and to see politics as a kind of ideological jihad rather than a way to solve problems by considering a variety of opinions.   Compromise is derided as weak, moderates are seen as “unable to decide.”   Such a position is a perversion of politics, one dangerous to democracy.   It’s emotion trumping reason, with people often taking their positions on issues via cues from the political media.

Maine has stood out with leaders both in Washington and at home who defy that attitude with a pragmatic common sense disregard for rigid ideology.    This has been due to people on both sides of the aisle showing respect and recognizing they all want what’s best for the state and their communities.   Governor Le Page’s style has put that in jeopardy.    The Republican op-ed ends with confidence that Le Page will shift tone and move forward.    He and the Republicans have an opportunity to show Maine what their ideas might mean for the state.  The Governor will only hurt himself and his party if he can’t find a way to adjust to the demands of his office.


Natural and Social Beauty

I was going up the T-bar at Titcomb Mountain, Farmington’s local very family friendly ski mountain on Thursday.  It’s not a big mountain, the run down is just a couple minutes, though the views and layout of the trails is superb.  As the sun was setting, and the night ski lights came on, I looked at the snow glistening under my skis as I was pulled up the mountain.   I found myself filled with exuberance.    The beauty of the moment overwhelmed me – clear skies, clean crisp air, the mountains the snow.   An amazing world!

At the top I joined a group of second and third grade skiers, including my son.  This is a group of seven youngsters, with ten other groups from grades K-3 taking lessons from university students hired to teach.   The sound of kids laughing, various lessons taking place, and the activity up and down the hill had a vibrancy that blended with the natural beauty.   Here a new kind of beauty emerged — social beauty.

By social beauty I mean simply that this community organizes itself in ways that inspire the same feelings as when I look out over the ski trails at dusk.  These lessons — every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30, draw a large number of families who want their youngsters to learn to ski.  It’s cheap — only $40 for six weeks — and there is an atmosphere of family and community.  Most parents just drop their kids off, but I volunteered to ski with the group, enjoying honing my skills too.  Whether it’s kindergartners just learning, or groups like this one of kids who handle themselves well on skis, it’s a real benefit to the community.

Saturday a five year old friend of my five year old son had a birthday party there, and it was great.   There’s nothing like riding the t-bar with a five year old between your legs, and then heading down the mountain as he learns to ski.   My seven year old, of course, was off on his own — he’s mastered the slopes and has his own friends to ski with.

Earlier Saturday Ryan (the seven year old) got the winning basket in his game in a league for 2nd and 3rd graders. It is competitive in that they have teams that play a season and then a single elimination tournament.   But while they play the director/referee is lax in enforcing rules like traveling or double dribbling, instead usually stopping the child, explaining what they did wrong, and then having them start again.  Parents cheer both teams, and the purpose is learning and fun, not winning.   Yet having a tournament is important because it shows that even though the purpose may be primarily learning and fun, you still try to win, and that’s a good thing.   The teams in soccer and basketball have the names of real teams — Ryan’s this year is the Milwaukee Bucks, though when I first told him that he looked at me surprised, “my team is the walking butts?”   Saturday’s score: Milwaukee Bucks 13 Orlando Magic 12.

Of course, in fall there is soccer, organized through the Farmington rec department.  Every weekend for two months over 150 kids 1st grade through 5th play in teams, followed by a tournament.   Again it is competitive in the fact that the tournament is single elimination and the champions win trophies, but it’s not in the sense that adults and coaches see it more for teaching skills and letting the kids have fun than to win.   Families watch their kids on the sidelines, chatting with each other as the kids play.   Beautiful.

At the university swim lessons are free for beginners (through level two).   For pre-schoolers, that can mean two or three years of free swim lessons, thanks to a donation some time ago.  It’s also twice a week, and I get the same feeling looking at the parents bringing their kids and towels to the pool, with sometimes dozens of kids (especially the winter sessions) learning to swim.  In Maine with all our lakes swimming is a necessary skill!   Our seven year old has mastered it, the five year old is still working on it.

The community also has football for third graders and up, dance is big, especially (though not solely) for girls, there’s a very successful t-ball and baseball league, cross country skiing, summer camps, and a variety of things for kids to do.  I really oppose over scheduling kids, and most of these are not time intense at the beginning.    We made some conscious choices (e.g., he’ll be tired with skiing and Saturday basketball, so no boy scouts, or cross country skiing), and let the kids dictate a lot (Ryan decided he really didn’t like T-ball, so we didn’t continue).

Being in a community with so many activities for kids is really great, and the coming together of people to interact and share the experience is invaluable.  Moreover, the social beauty mixes with the natural.   On soccer playoff evenings, at twilight as they play the star spangled banner with the sun setting, kids lined up in little soccer jerseys, green well manicured grass and a series of ad hoc (smaller than regulation) soccer fields, the smell of autumn in the air, well, it’s amazing.   Or being at the pool as dozens of pre-schoolers prepare for lessons, parent with towels, chatting as the instructors get ready.  Or, of course, Mt. Titcomb and the beauty of winter.

When natural and social beauty intersect I get a sense of content satisfaction.    Given the state of the world from Moscow to Cairo to inner cities and war zones, I am profoundly thankful that I live in a place that mixes social and natural beauty in such an exquisite manner.   At least in terms of community and childrens activities in Farmington, Maine, the state motto “the way life should be” rings true to me.


Maine’s Wild Governor’s Race

Paul LePage (R) is poised to become the next Governor of Maine, despite the fact most Republicans and most voters overall would prefer someone else.  In a crowded Republican primary full of quality candidates, LePage surprised the establishment by winning a plurality with just over a third of the votes.   As a tea party favorite, his supporters were committed and enthused, and with the rest of the GOP field splitting the vote, he came out on top.

Now he is running against a Democrat Libby Mitchell, and three independents.   One, Elliot Cutler, is splitting the vote with Mitchell.   A plurality is all it takes to win, and in those terms LePage is costing into election day with a large lead.   Democrats had hoped that independent Shawn Moody would siphon away votes from LePage, especially after scandals emerged around accusation of tax evasion and some well publicized temper tantrums from a candidate used to running a business and not being questioned and pressured.   Unlike Cutler, Moody lacks money and thus was buried beneath the ads and noise of the campaign.

Earlier it appeared Cutler wasn’t gaining traction.  Mitchell got close to LePage in the polls, and Cutler stayed at around 10%.   But he has been spending lots of money, and a lot of Mainers who think Mitchell is too liberal and LePage too conservative have rallied to Cutler.   Yet in a three person race, it’s hard to know what will happen.

For some this is proof that we need a run off system — the way the current ballot is structured someone can get elected that a large majority of the people don’t want in office.    In one recent poll Le Page got 37% and his opponents 53% — but LePage would win.  But those are the rules of the game, and if either Cutler or Mitchell had generated the core support LePage has achieved, they’d be doing much better.   Here are the scenarios:

1.  A Cutler win is unlikely, but possible.   Although he’s improved in the polls, there is a lot of early voting, and that is likely benefiting Mitchell.   At first I was suspicious of his leap in a couple of recent polls, but today two more corroborated earlier polls, one showing Cutler within 6 of LePage (37-31, with Mitchell at 22).   Maine does have a reputation of supporting independents, and Cutler’s clearly got the wind at his back.

2.  A Mitchell win remains possible, but unlikely.   Until Cutler’s rise in the polls I thought that a mixture of LePage’s mistakes and Mitchell’s organization would eek out a narrow victory for her.   However, she has not run a very effective campaign, while Cutler has saturated the air waves and has ads appear on everything from “Facebook” to the Maine website “Pine Tree Politics.”    Mitchell hasn’t inspired the kind of hard core support that both LePage and Cutler have generated.

So going into the final weekend the race has become wild.  LePage still seems likely to win; he’s staked out about 40% of the vote, leaving Cutler and Mitchell to fight for the other 60%.   Yet he is within striking distance of either challenger.  Strategic voters who want “anyone but LePage” have a dilemma.  Do they vote for Mitchell, in second place most of the race and with the unions and the better organization on her side?  Or do they vote for Cutler, who seems to be doing better in the polls and has a devoted core group of supporters alongside a well funded campaign?   My hunch is that Cutler’s riding the wave now and Mitchell blew her chance.   Yet just two weeks ago it seemed Cutler hadn’t caught on, and Mitchell was surging.

So…all one can do is wait and see.  The Republicans clearly hope that Cutler and Mitchell split the vote evenly, allowing them to win both the GOP primary and the general election on the backs of about 35% of the electorate.    What a strange year this is turning out to be!


Visions of the Past

Sometimes you read a book and it changes the way you think about your environment.   I had such an experience Sunday when, sitting on the shore of Rangeley Lake as the kids swam, I read Luann Yetter’s Remembering Franklin County – Stories from the Sandy River Valley. The book provides glimpses into life in Farmington, Maine and nearby communities over the last 235 years.  I came away from that short read (I read it in one sitting – only 128 pages) with a new appreciation for the community in which I live, and a better sense of its history.

Really, you might ask?   A 128 page beach read did that?!    Histories of Farmington have been written (and were cited by Yetter), and I’m sure if I took the time I’d find them fascinating.  As a journalist, however, Yetter has the instinct to “find the story” and paint an image succinctly yet effectively.  My mind could see early log cabins, the first frame houses, the paths, roads, and people.    Driving through town my mind thinks about how things once looked, and seeing names like “Knowlton Corner road” I wonder if its the same Knowlton who did not want a unified Farmington in 1794.

I could envision the people, the buildings, and the sense of excitement and apprehension in leaving the civilized coast to venture into Maine’s forest.     She describes the early settlers — like the Titcombs and the Belchers — and what it meant to move into the wilderness.    With it now so easy to hop on highway 27 to head down to Augusta, it’s hard to fathom the idea that the Kennebec river was so far a way that you had to be a subsistence farmer to survive out here, and that early on travel was rare and often impossible in winter.

I also found the people fascinating.   Though they worked immensely hard, the core New England values of pragmatism, community and education could be seen.  These weren’t rogue settlers who couldn’t make it in elsewhere, but educated and civilized New Englanders realizing if a new community were to take off, they’d be in the center of the action, profiting.

A few stories stuck out.   Farmington became a town in 1794 by act of the Massachusetts legislature (Maine was part of Massachusetts then).   They wanted to have the right to raise taxes to build an infrastructure so the town could grow and profit.    I was a bit surprised by the fact they still used British Pounds as currency.   Supply Belcher, the man who would represent Farmington at the legislature also managed to publish music he’d been writing — apparently he was a very good composer, though his work to create a new town kept him from writing much music after that.    He was also opposed by people living in what is now Chesterville and Farmington Falls, who had seen the balance of power shift to the east side of the Sandy River, a few miles down.   Belcher won; if not, where I live now wouldn’t officially be in Farmington!

I also never knew about the contested election of 1879 when Governor Garcelon tried to essentially steal the election for the Democrats from the Republicans.    He discounted results in many locations, and in Farmington that shifted the election to the Democrat,  Louis Voter.  Voter, however, decided integrity was more important than partisan victory and refused to go to Augusta, helping derail the plans.  I also thought the old tradition about the winning candidate buying a barrel of rum for a raucous victory celebration was cool — perhaps that could be brought back (are you reading this, Lance?)

I was moved by the story of the Croswell store in Farmington Falls.  In part, it helped show just how the region developed.  It started catering to subsistence farmers, dealing in things they couldn’t produce themselves, often less in currency than arranging trades to Hallowell (the nearest trading center, including what is now Augusta).  Then it grew, expanded to carriages, changed with the times, weathered panics and depressions, but finally had to close in 1958.   That, and the profiles Yetter gives of interesting personalities such as Julia Eastman showed that even though we may now be living in a time for transformation, every generation has seen their world change.

My favorite story connects with where I work – the University of Maine Farmington.   It traces its lineage back to the Farmington Academy, begun in 1807.  At that time they bought a bell from a Boston Silversmith named Paul Revere.   Revere (not yet immortalized in poetry) would complain about non-payment as an economic crisis hit and the Academy lacked funds.  He ultimately got paid, and the Academy went through a few incarnations and name changes before becoming the University of Maine Farmington.

Yetter’s description of the change from the virtually inaccessible harsh early days on the Sandy River to the growth of the town and connection via roads and trade to the outside world illustrates dramatic development.   I’d been told when we bought our house that where we live — now forested — had once been farm land.  You can see it from the trees, which are clearly young despite their height.  Farms ultimately became unprofitable, with the ‘big boom’ after World War II bringing modernism and change to this region.

Yet now I see things in this town I didn’t before.   It’s not just a pretty New England town I got lucky enough to find a job in, it’s alive with history and personalities, I feel a bit more connected.  I also understand why I’ll always be “from away.”   Those here grew up with the town and are connected to it.  Yet the original settlers also came from away, and there is a commonality.   The Ingalls who settled in South Dakota and endured hardship were of the same kind of stock as the Titcombs and Belchers.   The notion of leaving comfort and security to set out to build a new life is a common American story.

Joni Mitchell’s song “Both Sides Now” has a line that came to mind as I thought about this:  “Something’s lost but something’s gained by living every day.”   We’ve gained a lot since then.  We have all the modern conveniences, ranging from grocery stores to easy delivery of mail and goods purchased on line.   We’re wireless, connected and prosperous beyond imagination.  Even the poor amongst us have it pretty good when compared to most of the rest of human history.   Yet we’ve also lost something, we’ve become dependent on conveniences, and few would undertake the risk the Titcombs took bringing children and a young baby into the barely explored forest to start a new life with no guarantee of success (to be sure, even their families at the time thought it a bit foolhardy).

We don’t have that option.   Life is organized, controlled, under surveillance, and kept safe.   Risk has become something to be avoided at all costs, due to both government regulations and the fear of law suits.  In my modern persona I would not want to live back then — I wouldn’t know how to navigate what it would take to survive, let alone thrive.  I’ve been spoiled by modernity.    Yet part of me wishes I could have had that chance.


Topless in Farmington

On a sunny cool Maine day, I had the task this afternoon of picking up my seven year old son and the daughters of some friends (aged 7 and 11), grabbing dinner at Amato’s and then bringing them home to play for the evening.   En route to get them I noticed a woman walking around campus with a long skirt but no top.   On the way back I mentioned what I had seen, and of course the kids wanted me to drive by so they could see.   As I did my son asked why she wasn’t wearing a shirt, “girls are supposed to wear shirts.”

The 11 year old filled him in on the story.   A student here at UMF, Andrea Simoneau, is planning an April 30th topless parade here in Farmington.   Conveniently, it will be right alongside the building in which I work.  She organized a similar parade in Portland not too long ago.  The reason is simple: freedom and equal rights.   Men can go shirtless, why not women?   After picking up our pizza we were driving home when we saw her again; another topless woman had joined her.  Interestingly, people seemed non pulsed — this is New England, after all.

But just as Mainers can have a stoic let people do as they please attitude, you also have New England prudes.   They have been complaining, asking the legislature to pass a law banning being topless in public.   As the law stands now, every woman in the state could decide to go without their shirts and bras tomorrow, and no one would be in trouble.

Some say that the reason men can go shirtless is that women’s breasts are sexual.    But having seen the reaction of female friends when a muscular guy takes off his shirt (alas, not when I take mine off), I find it hard to accept the idea that there is anything truly less sexual about topless men.    Moreover, are thighs, legs, and the parts of the body you can see on any beach, or on the lawn tanning on any sunny day really that much less sexual?   What about lips, fingers and eyes?

The difference is not sexuality, but culture.   We’ve learned too see female breasts as an especially sexual feature, forbidden to see or fondle unless invited.   As someone who finds legs much more attractive than breasts, I must say I never found that cultural norm convincing.   But it’s there.  Back in 2001 I was with students in Italy, and they pointed at me and started laughing.  I looked behind me and there was nothing but a man running a newsstand.   They kept pointing, raising their eyebrows, smiling and gesturing me to look.   I thought they were just trying to play a mind game with me and asked them what was going on.   “Look,” they said, laughing and pointing.   “WHAT?!” I demanded, running out of patience.

They were pointing at the newsstand, and a large poster with a topless woman.   Those are so normal in Europe I don’t even notice them.   But to Americans steeped in this culture of “breasts as forbidden” it stood out and got their attention.   Having been at topless beaches many times, I can say with certainty that it is not a sexual experience to have women without shirts.   One gets used to it quickly, and it becomes normal.    For those never experiencing the American breast-prudery, it is hardly noticed.

So I agree with these women, there is no reason that women should have to live by the double standard of having to cover their chests.   It’s not as serious, but this double standard is based on the same logic that has Muslim women in Saudi Arabia covered head to toe.    To be sure, most women (as well as men) would likely choose to cover their chest most of the time.    I hope legislators resist the temptation to try to create a new dress code for Maine.   Women can walk around bear chested and life goes on.

These women are noticed, but yet as they were walking down town and on campus, they were generally walking alone, handing out fliers for the upcoming parade, and not treated as some kind of freak show.    I admire their courage and principle.   It’s a calm, non-violent protest of a double standard so entrenched that most people consider having the double standard to be natural.


Same Sex Marriage Postponed

Last night by a margin of about 53-47% the “Yes on One” group seeking to overturn the state legislature’s approval of same sex marriage scored a victory.   What might have been an historic vote to allow same sex marriage turned out to be just another setback.

Reading Facebook last night and this morning as the results became clear, the disappointment among so many students (and faculty) was evident.   Many said they were “ashamed of Maine,” wondered “how people could be so bigoted and closed minded,” and found it hard not to “hate the haters” who insult and degrade a segment of the population for no reason.   “Gay marriage will harm no one,” one person remarked, “but not allowing it harms families and loving couples.”  Many of these people were the same ones who were thrilled one year ago today when Barack Obama won an historic election for the Presidency.   Within a year they learn that political activism can inspire great highs and great lows.   So what happened, what does this election mean?

First, as I noted awhile back in the post Culture Shift, the very fact this election was so close is a sign that the world of 2009 is far different than the world of 1999, when Mainers rejected a law to end discrimination against gays in work, housing, and other similar circumstances.  At that time, a same sex marriage referendum would have had no chance.   The gay rights measure did get passed in a referendum a few years later, and its worth remembering how upset so many people were when the first attempt was defeated.   The game gets played again.

Go back even farther — though not much farther — and you can find a time when interracial marraige was seen with the same kind of disdain by a large part of the population that same sex marriage is today.  Yet over time that stigma slowly changed, and now we have a President who had a black father and a white mother.   That slow change, of course, came from political activism that suffered numerous setbacks, but yet slowly moved forward.

Not only do cultures change, but once change starts it’s hard to hold back.   Anti-gay efforts have become less ambitious in recent years.   In the 70s they wanted to fire gay teachers or anyone who helped them, in the 90s they wanted to stop civil unions, and this year the “Yes on One” people claimed that civil unions were a legitimate alternative to same-sex marriage.   Each battle is hard fought, such as the non-discrimination battles a decade ago, but movement remains inexorably towards equality.  Especially when one takes into account changing values amongst young people, I suspect within decades we’ll not only have same sex marriage, but an openly gay President.   People will look back at this form of discrimination the same way that we now look at bans on interracial marriage as odd.

Patrice in a comment to yesterday’s post ended with a five word sentiment many share:  “I just don’t get it.”   How can people be so cruel to others in our society, denying them equality, and acting as if their sexual orientation makes them inferior, evil, dangerous or second class?   That seems so profoundly ignorant and hateful. And, to be sure, there are bigots out there whose homophobia and hatred eats them from within.   It’s tempting to hate them back, but better to pity them.

That does not describe 53% of Maine, however.   Most who voted yes are not hateful bigots.   The “Yes on One” people approach the issue from a whole different perspective.  They are less concerned with the individual than with the collective cultural identity of the people.   Conservatism is at base a collectivist ideology seeing society as a kind of organic whole, held together by cultural norms and traditions.  True, in the hyper-capitalist United States conservatives have also embraced free market economics, creating a kind of schizophrenic collectivist libertarianism (whose consequences were seen this election in the 23rd district of NewYork).  But real social conservatives are at base worried about society over the individual.

To them, marriage is not just a legal status, but  a social institution built around the family which has shaped and defined the core of human existence since the beginning of recorded history.  And, though some cultures have embraced polygamy, child brides, and other things we abhor, marriage has never been associated with homosexuality until recently.  To them, this is a radical jolt to their understanding of the world and how it operates, and seems to be an unreasonable effort to change society in order to ‘appease’ the interests of a minority — a minority they often think are acting ‘sinfully’ or ‘unnaturally.’  I know many such conservatives who are not hateful people, and who grimace when told the impact their view has on gays — their intent is not to hurt.  They see same sex marriage as a radical upending of tradition and what they consider the natural order of things.  It seems like a minority is trying to change how their world operates.

Those are legitimate perspectives.   One can’t just dismiss those who want to protect traditions as they know them by calling them names or labeling them bigots.  Most of them are being presented with perspectives that they did not grow up with, and which seem strange to them.  Some will never give up their opposition to change, but many if not most can over time be persuaded.

What the “No on One” campaign did so well is they humanized the issue.   They showed same sex couples and their families, and moved away from abstract reasoning to show those who are skeptical the human impact of discrimination.   They had lobstermen, pastors, Catholics, the elderly, and numerous people from every day life in their images and commercials.   This wasn’t about “changing marriage,” it was about letting other loving couples have marriage as well.   Traditional marriage was not under threat, traditional marriage is what same sex couples want.

So despite my disappointment — I really thought the ‘No’ side would win — I feel like this was still a small movement forward.   Even Ari Fleischer, former Press Secretary to President George W. Bush, said that while he opposes same sex marriage, he believes the culture is clearly heading that direction.   Civil rights movements always meet resistance, cultures change slowly, and there will always be those who use fear tactics and predictions of dire consequences to try to convince people not to let go of the status quo.   But things are changing.  And ultimately, I don’t think those who won the election yesterday will be able to stop the tide.   I would not be surprised if within five years same sex marriage is legal in Maine, and within 20 years young people will think it odd that it ever was not.

Other elections: Though I’ll have more on those and what Obama needs to do moving forward in coming days, the surprise victory of Owens in NY -23 is a gut punch to the “teaparty” movement, and made what was overall a bad evening for the Democrats not quite so bad.   They lost two Governorships, but gained a seat in Congress.   Still, I was hoping for the second year in a row to be writing about an historic election.   That’s not been canceled, just postponed.