Politics & Other Mistakes: That all you got?
This isn’t one of those columns where I ridicule some clueless schlub – such as Republican U.S. Senate candidate Erick Bennett. That’s not the point I’m trying to make. Besides, it’d be way too easy.
Consider the facts: Bennett is the founder of the Maine Equal Rights Center, described in the news media as a “constitutional rights group that opposed same-sex marriage.” I suppose the center could be considered a “group” if you count among its membership both Bennett and his sock puppet. As for “constitutional rights,” it claimed same-sex marriage amounted to “communism” (although no communist country allows it) and that gay men and lesbians already had the right in Maine to form partnerships that were virtually the same as marriage (although that wasn’t true).
Bennett has a tendency to post topless photos of himself on social media sites, but that hardly excludes him from becoming a senator, considering the far more revealing Playgirl pix of former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.
During his 2008 unsuccessful run for a Maine House seat in Oakland, Bennett posted weird comments on MySpace, calling into question his attitudes toward women, African-Americans and almost everyone else.
In 2011, he ran for mayor of Portland, but failed to get enough signatures to earn a spot on the ballot. At that time, he claimed he played a major role in GOP candidate Paul LePage’s successful run for governor in 2010, an assertion that came as news to LePage’s campaign staff.
Bennett fashions himself as a political consultant and is currently trying to collect enough signatures to get referendum questions on the ballot to allow concealed weapons without permits, to require parental permission for minors to have abortions and to repeal the Common Core standards for education. Given his inability to qualify for the Portland mayoral ballot, I wouldn’t plan on voting on those issues any time soon.
Oh yeah, and he also has an assault conviction involving his ex-wife. The creepy video where he claims it was her fault may still be floating around in cyberspace.
On Dec. 2, the day Bennett announced his intention of running for the Senate, I got emails from a couple of Republican conservatives, apparently intended to head off any thoughts I might have had of writing about how he exemplifies the Tea Party wing of the GOP. “He doesn’t represent me or anything I believe,” said one libertarian activist. “Don’t tarnish us with his kookiness,” said another constitutionalist. Bangor Daily News reporter Mario Moretto put it more discreetly when he updated his blog posting on the Bennett candidacy by noting that “several Republicans – inside and outside Maine – contacted me off the record in an effort to put distance between Bennett and the mainstream GOP.”
All of which goes a long way toward explaining why I’m not writing this week’s column about a fringe-dweller like Bennett. What I really want to delve into is why – if, as several polls show, many right-wing Republicans are dissatisfied with incumbent GOP U.S. Sen. Susan Collins for her perceived moderation – the party couldn’t find somebody with even the faint appearance of normalcy to run against her.
Are we to believe that out of nearly a quarter-million registered pachyderm party members in this state, there’s not one who’s willing to take a principled stand against Collins and has more credibility than Bennett (and more clothing in his or her Facebook photos)?
Admittedly, the idea of challenging the three-term senator isn’t all that appealing. She already has more than $2 million in her campaign treasury and a solid favorability rating. While she strikes a majority of her own party as too liberal, Collins polls well among independents and even holds an early lead among registered Democrats. And if her votes are examined closely, it becomes clear that while her rhetoric is decidedly centrist, her record for the past two years has tracked well to the right and closely aligns with Republican leadership.
Collins’ perceived independence is largely a matter of public relations. But it’s excellent public relations that allows her to say one thing and vote in the opposite direction, to speak disparagingly of special interests while her husband runs a lobbying firm, to leverage contrasting procedural votes to allow her to claim to have backed whatever side is most politically advantageous at the moment.
Somebody in the GOP who’s not suffering from congenital wacko syndrome should be taking Collins to task for her ambiguous record and adroit maneuvering around any position that might conflict with her moderate image. If such a courageous creature dared to get up on his or her hind legs and proclaim that while Bennett may be topless, Empress Susan is wearing no clothes at all, I’d be writing this column about that person.
Which would be nowhere near as much fun as ridiculing Erick Bennett.
Comments may be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. No topless photos, please.