Every four years, Maine engages in a bumbling effort to influence the major parties’ choices of presidential candidates. It’s the state’s biggest exercise in futility (except for celebrating Moxie, which tastes like a flatulent moose and ExxonMobil had a baby).
Our inability to shape the campaign for the White House isn’t simply a matter of Maine being too small to have much impact on national politics. We also get ignored because we have a history of making lousy selections. I can prove that with just two words:
That’s who Maine Republicans chose in their 2016 caucuses to be the GOP’s standard-bearer. Cruz is the least liked person in Congress. Even in his home state of Texas, he’s considered low-grade roadkill. Chris Christie would have been an improvement.
That’s the trouble with caucuses. A small group of kooks can dominate them, because only a tiny percentage of party members bother to show up. Primaries are much better at producing representative results. Such as:
OK, maybe “better” isn’t the correct term.
Maine actually had presidential primaries back in 1996 and 2000, but dumped them because bigger states moved their primaries to the same date, effectively rendering our votes “an expensive exercise with little meaning,” in the words of then-state GOP Chairwoman Gwethalyn Phillips. Since then, there’s been no reason for candidates to do more than make a perfunctory visit between rallies in neighboring New Hampshire.
In 2004, Gary Hart was here, before his extra-marital affair became public. In 2008, we got, among others, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Vilsack and August “Gus” Jaccaci, a New Gloucester resident who campaigned by impersonating Thomas Jefferson. The completely forgotten John Davis of Colorado showed in 2012, and 2016 gave us Carly Fiorina and Jeb “Jeb!” Bush. Credible candidates campaigned here before the actual election in November, but gave the caucuses a pass. Except for this guy:
“I am Vermin Supreme and I am from the internet.”
Vermin Supreme (his legal name) starts his speeches that way. He wears a rubber boot on his head. He carries a giant toothbrush (part of his platform is a law requiring daily brushing). If elected, he promises he’ll give everyone a free pony. He also wants zombie-apocalypse training and time-travel research (neither of which would cost as much as a border wall and both of which make more sense).
Even though he exceeds Ted Cruz in entertainment value, Supreme’s visits to Maine can best be characterized as more regular than successful. He won zero delegates as a Democrat, so in 2016, he switched to the Libertarian Party, with similar results. In 2018, he ran for attorney general of Kansas, even though he lives in Baltimore and met none of the qualifications for the office.
Maine will probably have a presidential primary in 2020. The Legislature approved such a law in 2016 and is currently considering a measure to fund it at a cost of about $1 million. While there’s little chance Republicans will have significant competition for the nomination (William Weld’s name is in the dictionary next to “insignificant”), the Democratic race should be big fun, what with all manner of ineffective congresspersons, anonymous mayors and a guy who actually lost an election to Ted Cruz.
I’ll be withholding my support from all of them, as long as there’s a chance Vermin Supreme will again grace our state with his presence.
My primary concern is that you email me at [email protected].