By Tim Lajoie
Chairman, Lewiston Republican City Committee
Ask a room full of people in Lewiston if anyone is a Republican—go ahead, it’s okay. Ask. You’re likely to see a few heads to glance quickly from side to side to see if anyone is looking and then a sheepish nod with a half-hearted raised hand before putting it down quickly.
In a city that has gone to the Democrats by an average margin of victory of 35% in the last 10 years, it’s clear we’re a minority—and a silent one at that.
In fact, about the only thing Republicans can celebrate in this city is that we could probably accuse the Democrats of shamelessly running up the score. For a party that prides itself on having a big heart and strong feelings, this Republican is not feeling any love from the Democrats. I only feel their boot heel on the back of my neck, and deservedly so. To the victors go the spoils, I guess.
Save our current Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who have done very well in Lewiston (as did William Cohen), any Republican candidate who dares venture into the ring to square off with a Democrat in this city gets KO’d on Election Day. In fact, Democrats hardly break a sweat, using very few resources and applying little effort to defend their seats in this town. Just put their names on the ballot and it’s over; Republicans can stay home. It’s downright demoralizing.
I know what you’re thinking. Democrats rule this town, Republicans cannot win. Even Reagan, in his landslide defeat of Walter Mondale in 1984, lost in Lewiston by 4%. If the Gipper lost in Lewiston, how can any Republican win? (By the way, this is pre-2004 Red Sox and Yankees-type domination. Miracles can happen.)
The Democrats always win; the Republicans always lose. That’s just the way it is. And we have accepted it.
No more. Those days are over. Today we begin to fight back. Today we hold our heads up and proudly say we’re Republicans. Today we get involved in the political arena and share our ideals. Today we start making Democrats work to win elected office in this city, defend their failed policies and hold them accountable for the damage those policies have caused.
We have reasons to be positive. Several Lewiston races in 2010 were much closer than in years past. State Rep. Bruce Bickford, a Republican who represents portions of Lewiston and Auburn, won his race for House District 70. Congressional candidate Jason Levesque and Gov. Paul Lepage took over 40% of the Lewiston vote.
Dr. Joel Kase took 46% of the vote against Senator Margaret Craven. Matthew Fournier won 43% of the vote in his race against District 74 Rep. Margaret Rotundo. In any other city, these margins are convincing victories. In Lewiston, however, they are a marked improvement over past Republican showings.
Local Republican support for Lewiston candidates was weak. There were few volunteers for these candidates, few out canvassing the city and spreading their messages. As an active volunteer in the local Republican office working as Jason Levesque’s communications coordinator, I could count the Republican volunteer force most days on one hand. With more committed Republicans taking an active role in the election process, I believe we can improve on these results for 2012.
In addition to increased involvement, we need to take the offensive, shape our own discourse and carve out our own local identity. We cannot allow ourselves to be demonized by Democrats. Republicans and Democrats have similar goals—we need to be persuasive about that. We both want stronger communities, better schools, better access to affordable health care and lower unemployment.
But we do have a fundamental difference of ideology in how to accomplish those goals—we need to also be persuasive about that, too. Our ideology offers a stark contrast against Democratic ideals for Lewiston voters. Let’s dispose of the Democratic caricature and hyperbolic rhetoric that Republicans want to starve children and old people; that we want to take away Grandma’s Social Security and prescription drugs; that we want to line the pockets of the rich while stealing from the poor.
Hogwash. I will not own that accusation; I am not playing that game. And I refuse to reason with that false premise as the starting point of the discourse. I demand that Democrats be honest about what we stand for.
Republicans admit that we face complex problems with no easy solutions. But Republicans are united about one thing: government is not the solution; government is the problem. Countless failed Big Government programs instituted by Democrats illustrate that clearly. We need to convince our neighbors that we can solve our own problems as a community and as neighbors; government just needs to get out of our way.
It sounds too simple, I know. But all Americans know that we do our best when we decide how to care for our own families, take care of our own businesses, spend our own money and make our own decisions. Government does its best when it leaves us alone. As Thoreau wrote in his essay Civil Disobedience in 1849: “That government is best which governs least.”
Our present government takes too much, accounts for too little and produces too few results. Yet government continues to reach further and further into our lives, taking more and more of our money, controlling more and more of our decisions.
Republicans would rather rely on self-sufficiency to solve our problems; the Democrats want us to rely on government. That is the unmistakable ideological difference: self-rule and self-determination versus government-rule and government-determination. Republicans have failed to effectively illustrate the differences between self-sufficiency and government-orchestrated solutions to our problems.
That has to change. It is going to be a daunting task, I admit, one that will require all hands on deck. Democrats have convinced many in Maine that we need government intervention for every segment of our lives, that government knows better than we do. It’s not true.
It’s time to boldly challenge this assertion. It’s time to convince those who believe it that the government is a cruel master that stifles the American spirit and enslaves us all to a failed ideology, namely that we are not capable of governing ourselves.
The strength of our republic has historically been limited government, fiscal prudence and free markets. We must return to these principles. Limited government leads to self-sufficiency, fiscal prudence leads to more control over our personal decisions, and free markets lead to self-determination. When the government interferes with any of these, our freedoms are lost.
It’s time to push back. Yes, my Republican friends, it’s okay to come out and join us. David defeated Goliath; the Red Sox beat the Yankees; and the Lewiston Republicans can have a profound impact on the political landscape in Lewiston. We just need you to dust off the ol’ glove and get in the game.
E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.