I have listened now to all the candidates for Governor in Maine. There are some I could happily vote for and some others scare the bejesus out of me. But among all the candidates, there is a notable lack of vision for Maine. There are lists of “where I am on the issues.” There is an abundance of mean spiritedness, like the thinly veiled boasts that “I wasn’t a welfare cheat.” And there is a lot of reaction to current events. Everyone has to have a policy prescription on the opioid crisis, and the policies range from better mental health services to a border wall in Kittery to keep those evil people to our South from bringing drugs in and tempting Mainers.
Where is the vision for what we want Maine to become in the future? What are our goals for the state? What do we want Maine to look like? Do we want to become another Massachusetts or New Hampshire, or is there something different in store for us? A vision is something more than campaign platitudes like good jobs, less regulation, or being tougher on crime. A vision appeals to our better angels to help us think about an ideal future that we know we cannot achieve but we can strive toward.
And really, I don’t want the candidate’s vision. I want a leader in the Blaine House who will help us work together as Mainers to figure out where we want to go and how to get there. We tried this once in the 1970s, the so-called Commission on Maine’s Future. Now it is time we tried it again. Doing so will yield something very different from that process of forty years ago.
The idea is simple. We ask a cross-section of Maine citizens – young and old; Republican, Democrat, and unaffiliated; rich and poor; opinion leaders and every day folk like you and me – to serve on a commission. We have the members travel the state and use a structured format to listen to what people aspire to for themselves and this state. The commission would consult experts to understand what the constraints and opportunities are for Maine people. What are the problems we are going to face that we have not thought of yet? What are the realistic opportunities for us that we might want to make happen? We are not going to host Amazon HQ2, so what are the things we can hope to achieve?
The goal is not to come to consensus. That is not possible. Rather the goal is to find a vision for our future that many Mainers can rally around.
I don’t want a Governor who will tell me what our direction will be, nor do I want a Governor who is reacting to last year’s problems and disputes in Augusta. I don’t want a candidate who divides Mainers into issue groups and tries to tick off enough policy boxes to attract enough voters to win the election. Leadership is the art of working with the people to chart a course together. Any takers?