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Mike Hein is a former Maine Republican state representative candidate and a member of the Central Maine Labor Council.
You’ve probably heard the old saw about a chicken and a pig’s contribution to breakfast. In producing a hearty meal, the chicken (eggs) is involved, but the pig (ham/bacon) is really committed!
That’s how I felt over the years as an active, registered Maine Republican. Always somewhat involved, but never really committed to most the party’s platform or ideals. Their views on most matters left me bitter, angry, or scared.
The left was going to take our guns; the progressives were going to institute communism; the liberals hated God. All of it really scary, and none of it true.
Now in this Year of the Plague, with a pandemic making us reassess what is important, Maine’s Republicans are intent to double-down on their anti-science, live-free-and-die recklessness. It’s embarrassing.
So, earlier this month, I said, “No more.” I formally changed my political party registration to the Democratic Party at my local town office. This after 33 consecutive years as a Republican.
I initially registered as a Republican my senior year at Cony High School in Augusta. That same Republican Party affiliation stayed with me through three states while I served in the Army National Guard. Once I returned for good 20 years ago, I became active in the Maine Republican Party, twice running for state representative, in 2004 and 2012.
If I’m honest with myself though, my Democratic Party acceptance was a long time coming. Being on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder during the hollowing out of U.S. manufacturing over the past 30 years, I was not inspired by the Republican Party’s claims of bootstrap, rugged individualism. In a state like Maine, where poverty and food insecurity are real, the disconnect was even more profound.
For me, my Republicanism, was always based on cultural issues — primarily abortion. These past few years, this ended up being the sole reason I stayed in the party’s registered ranks. In the end, even this was not enough.
To be sure, I’m still pro-life and consider myself culturally moderate, like most of us who live in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. That will not change.
But on working-class, labor-related and other economic issues, I have found a home and solidarity within the Maine Democratic Party ranks. It is like wearing a comfortable pair of shoes after years of needless suffering in shoes two sizes too small.
Yet, it is a bittersweet revelation after all this time to realize how bamboozled I was by the GOP generally, and by the Maine GOP specifically. I know for a certainty that I left this party, and that the party itself has not changed.
Sure, the Republicans are even more overt and casual now in their racism and anti-Semitism, but it has been there throughout, for those who wanted to see it. To my great shame, I looked away or nervously laughed when such attitudes were expressed at Maine Republican events. I could cite dozens of examples.
In making amends of sorts, I’m supporting such working-class heroes as Sara Gideon to be my U.S. senator and Jared Golden to remain my congressman. I’m proud to say they’ve been endorsed by my labor union local.
To my fellow rural Mainers: Know that if you, too, have problems with the Maine GOP, you are not alone. You don’t have to formally change anything like I did, nor make any public pronouncements.
Simply join me and other culturally moderate, working-class folks this year in voting for Democratic candidates. Democrats have the most in common with us; they are us. Even if you’ve voted straight Republican your whole life, take it from me, it is never too late to do the right thing.