Short hits: Snowe’s Pluto, Webster’s fraud and King’s choice

Three Maine political figures — Olympia Snowe, Charlie Webster, and Angus King — are in transition in the political scene.

In a recent interview with Roll Call, the departing Senator Snowe reflected on her place in the Senate with a planetary comparison.

Asked, “What planet would you most like to explore, and why?,” she replied

I have to say I have an affinity these days for Pluto even though it’s no longer a planet — it’s sort of like how it sometimes feels being a moderate these days in the political solar system in Washington!

Perhaps after this election, Tea Party Republicans will have less power and moderates can have a higher status than planetoids.

Charlie Webster, the departing Chairman of Maine’s GOP was in the news a lot in 2011, claiming voter fraud. At various times, he said that Democrats brought in fraudulent voters by buses. He also went after student voters. Whatever the specifics, his claims were never backed by credible evidence.

Webster’s effort to end Election Day registration ultimately failed, as it was rejected by a 60%-40% vote by Maine people. (For more on this, see this journal article authored by Fried and Shaw).

In an extended interview with Don Carrigan, Webster revived fraud allegations. At one point (minutes 15:45-17:00), he says that there were black people in rural areas who voted and “no one in town knows anyone who is black.” Also, Webster claimed that people brought poor people ballots and told them how to vote.

It will be interesting to see if the next GOP Chair in Maine keeps going down the path of unsupported claims of voter fraud.

Frankly, it doesn’t seem like the most effective political strategy. Maine voters don’t believe the claims are credible and, all across the country, efforts to suppress the vote seems to have motivated greater turnout.

Today Senator-elect Angus King announced that he will caucus with Democrats.

Given King’s policy positions and his generally center-left approach, this was not particularly surprising. And given Democrats’ position as the majority party, this was a sensible choice. Why would King choose to be in a party with less power?

From a historical perspective on American political parties, King’s choice makes sense, too. Although Republicans used to have a relatively wide ideological sweep within their party, Democrats have continued to include a spectrum of perspectives.

Moreover, in recent years, there has been greater party discipline within the Republican party, with those disagreeing with the party line facing great pressure from their fellow legislators, party leaders, and primary voters.

King said he talked to two independents who have caucused with the Democratic party. There are no independent Senators who caucus with the Republican party. It is simply a more difficult caucus to be in, if one is not all in.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.