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David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children.
Vice President Mike Pence might care about the one electoral vote from Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
But the show he put on earlier this week makes clear that he doesn’t actually care about the people of the state.
Pence, joined by divisive former Gov. Paul LePage and congressional candidate Dale Crafts, rallied a large crowd of conservatives Monday in Hermon.
Pence promised the crowd that the “era of economic surrender is over.” Perhaps, but his surrender to COVID-19 continues unabated.
From photos of the event, masks were optional — and rare — and there was no social distancing. Every person who attended the event, and every person they interact with closely for the next 14 days, is now at greater risk for contracting coronavirus.
Maine has been a national leader in containing the spread of COVID-19, thanks to the stewardship of Gov. Janet Mills and public health experts such as Dr. Nirav Shah, the head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Our caseload has been low even as numbers have rebounded and grown around the country. The U.S. has now suffered more than 220,000 deaths and more than 8 million infections.
One wedding in East Millinocket, put Maine’s progress at risk with deadly consequences.
At least 177 cases and eight deaths have been linked to that single event, reaching as far south as York County.
Compared to Monday’s rally, the wedding was small. But the impact will last forever for the families who have been touched.
There’s no way to know for certain if the Pence rally will turn into a “superspreader” event until the damage starts to show up in communities around the state. We may never know for certain what damage the rally brought to us.
But large events, such as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, give the virus the chance it’s looking for to branch out in new directions and attack new families.
As the Washington Post reports, “within weeks of the gathering, the Dakotas, along with Wyoming, Minnesota and Montana, were leading the nation in new coronavirus infections per capita. The surge was especially pronounced in North and South Dakota, where cases and hospitalization rates continued their juggernaut rise in October.”
Pence is the leader of the White House coronavirus task force. He has access to the best medical minds and the most advanced scientific analysis in the world. Evidence suggests he ignores all that, and uses his position not to advance public health but for political gain.
His appearance at the rally is a prime example of why the United States has failed in its COVID-19 response. Politics before people — not the slogan anyone would want, but the one that best describes the event.
Election Day is about two weeks away, almost the same time that someone with COVID-19 is the greatest risk to others.
It’s the same day we could find out if the visit had any discernible impact on the outcome of the election itself.
President Donald Trump and Pence need to win Maine’s 2nd District in many of the scenarios that would return them to the White House. Public polling shows a tight race in the district, though former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to win Maine’ other three electoral votes.
For the want of that one electoral vote, Trump and Pence would gladly gamble with the health and economy of our entire state. In fact, with the health and economy of the entire country.
The president and the vice president simply don’t care. They don’t care if you get sick or if your parents or children do. They don’t care if you lose your job or your house or your future.
They care only about holding onto power — at any cost. Particularly if that cost is paid by someone else.