The state of Maine’s population is about the size of the Buffalo-Niagara metropolitan district. What that meant in human terms was brought home during this weekend’s caucuses.
Imagine the sense of duty behind volunteering as a poll watcher in one of the places that returned two votes. Did they take turns filling out their ballots and then spend the rest of the morning waiting for that other registered voter, the one who didn’t show?
I have dutifully walked to my Town Hall for decades to cast absolutely meaningless votes. New York has gone from being a swing state to monolithic single-party. It’s very much a system of backroom deals. Even the smallest political unit we voted on—the school budget—was immutable, an illusion of democracy where voters rubber-stamped what was already carved in stone.
Thus my husband and I were very excited to cast ballots in an election where our votes mattered. “Maine does things a little differently” would actually be a nice state motto here. Caucusing on two different days is one good example.
I voted in Rockland on Saturday. I chatted with a few other voters while waiting in line. We all reiterated the importance of voting in this particular election, but none of us could bring ourselves to name the person we wanted stopped. It seemed impolite, somehow, like buttonholing a juror on the courtroom steps. Afterwards, I realized that this might run contrary to the idea of the caucus itself, which was intended to share ideas as much as serve as a primary. But we’re all new at this.
In a state where We the People is a huge blur of passing faces and the results are a foregone conclusion, local politics didn’t interest me overmuch. But in Knox County each town was able to caucus in a middle-school classroom. Suddenly, politics doesn’t seem so much like a grinding sound from somewhere over our left shoulder, and more like a process in which real people can actually engage.
I know enough native Mainers to understand that one of their defining characteristics is independence, and the primary results didn’t disappoint. If the national election were held here tomorrow, it would be a referendum on ideas, because the two caucus winners are about as starkly opposed in ideology as you can get. To me, that validates my understanding of this place.
“As Maine goes, so goes the nation.” You’re a tough crowd, Maine. America needs more of that.