To the Editor:
The derogatory “jokes” and statements expressing disdain for President Obama that Senator Michael Willette of Presque Isle has been posting on Facebook for the past several years have recently made headlines. The senator implies the president is a Muslim, is not a U.S. citizen, and is making common cause with ISIS, etc.
Senator Willette is a public servant, sworn to uphold the best interests of the people of Maine, the majority of whom voted for President Obama in both elections. Instead, he is actively sowing discord and mistrust, despite ample public and non-partisan evidence refuting his implications. His statements are ignorant at best and intentionally incendiary at worst.
I certainly haven’t liked every president we’ve elected since I became eligible to vote in 1976, but respect for public office and the democratic process was instilled in me early on by my staunchly Republican father. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, roughly half of all Americans – 50 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of Democrats – believe that in policy negotiations, the desirable outcome is for differences to be split down the middle, each side getting half of what it asked for.
However, because the most politically polarized voters are also the most politically active and the most likely to vote, we have a growing number of elected officials who hold extreme, uncompromising views. The work of negotiating solutions and making our country run as it should therefore grinds to a halt while communications increasingly resemble a frat house parody of debate. No one wins but these “public servants” whose good salaries and retirement benefits we pay for.
It’s sad that this is what our children are learning about government, especially here in Maine, where we have a history of strong bipartisanship.
Governor LePage himself sets a very poor example of constructive compromise and respect for opposing views. We need to tell our elected officials that this is not what we pay them for. Remember, it’s the less active 50 percent of us who’ve allowed this state of affairs to come about.
As a start, I suggest we take the time to contact Senator Willette about his lack of respect for the outcomes of the democratic process, and do the same for every future instance we see in our Maine legislature. Dirigo.