Pick a crisis: COVID. Climate. Racial injustice. The economy.
They are hitting us all at once. They are intertwined at the roots and compounded by a federal government that cannot – or will not – take them on.
It’s long past time for change in Washington, and Mainers shouldn’t be patient any longer.
That’s why we endorse Democrat Sara Gideon to represent our state in the U.S. Senate.
Gideon is new to national politics, but her experience in the Maine Legislature, where she was elected to leadership by her peers after only one term in office, shows she has the ability to find common ground and make progress on tough issues.
Aside from these attributes, Gideon’s election would help tip control of the Senate to the Democrats and away from the Republican majority that has been an obstacle to change over the last six years.
The race between Gideon and Republican Sen. Susan Collins is one of the closest in the nation and one of the most expensive. Outside money is flooding the state in support of both candidates because so much is at stake.
Maine voters are not just picking someone to represent them in Washington, but also deciding what kind of national government they want in a time of crisis. If Mainers want a Senate committed to progress on the issues that directly affect their lives, Gideon is the clear choice.
This will be a difficult decision for many who have supported Collins throughout her long career. Within the context of her party, Collins is a true moderate who at times holds positions that are at odds with Republican leadership.
And she has a long history of bringing federal money back to Maine for everything from road improvements to Bath-built destroyers. Collins promises that there will be even more where that came from if she is elected to a fifth term, because she’s in line to become chairwoman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
But that’s the problem. Collins won’t get the gavel unless Republicans retain their majority. Those extra projects for Maine would come at a cost of another term in which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has absolute control over what bills can come to the floor for a vote.
That means we wouldn’t be able to expect any federal action on climate change, which the coal-boosting Kentuckian thinks will be fixed down the road by innovation. And there will be no legislation to limit campaign spending, because McConnell has made a career of advocating for more money in politics, not less.
Comprehensive immigration reform and any economic intervention in the face of the COVID-driven recession would also be off the table. It doesn’t matter where Collins stands on those issues as long as McConnell is in charge.
She has had victories, including increases in funding for medical research, improvements to Alzheimer’s disease care and the program she co-authored to give much-needed aid to businesses in the first months of the coronavirus pandemic.
But her caucus won’t move on the biggest issues, so the country can’t move. You can believe that Collins has been a good senator in the past and you can still recognize that sending her back to Senate now as part of a Republican majority would be wrong for Maine.
Gideon would not come to office with Collins’ experience and relationships, but neither Senator Collins, Senator Snowe or Senator Chase-Smith had those advantages when they arrived in Washington. She’ll earn it like all of the others who went before her.
In this ranked-choice election, Collins has two legitimate challengers, Gideon and independent Lisa Savage. (A fourth candidate, independent Max Linn, is running a campaign that can’t be taken seriously.)
Savage articulates bold policy proposals that are in scale to the problems the nation is facing.
But Gideon’s more moderate approach is better suited to a legislative body where progress is made in a series of steps. The Senate does not grind to a halt because it runs out of good ideas. It gets stuck when there are not enough people willing to move together toward a common goal.
On health care, Gideon and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden don’t go as far as progressives like Savage would like, and they support expanding the Affordable Care Act instead of trying to remake the entire system. Independent analysts project that Biden’s reforms would provide health insurance for 25 million more Americans who do not now have it. It would be a literal life saver, achievable in the near term if Democrats can assemble the right coalition. It would not be possible if Republicans keep control of the Senate.
This is where Gideon’s legislative experience matters. Gideon touts her ability to bargain bipartisan budget deals, but her most impressive work may have been what happened behind the scenes when she managed an ideologically diverse Democratic caucus, getting it to stick together and support those compromises.
That’s the kind of teamwork that would be needed to make any worthwhile progress in Washington’s highly polarized environment.
Maine can’t wait any longer while Congress ignores the nation’s most pressing issues. That’s why we should send Sara Gideon to Washington to be our senator.