A Sept. 4 article on the Washington, D.C. political website The Hill is creating some buzz here in Lincoln County.
The article is “The 10 counties that will decide the 2020 election,” by Reid Wilson. Wilson names Lincoln County one of these 10 supposedly influential counties.
Now, it is a little difficult to follow the reasoning here.
Recent history shows that Lincoln County leans Democratic when it comes to presidential elections.
We – the county – backed John Kerry, Barack Obama (twice), and Hillary Clinton. Clearly we were not a deciding factor in half of these races.
Not since Ralph Nader split the progressive vote in 2000 has Lincoln County backed a Republican – George W. Bush in this case – for president.
Even if Lincoln County does back a Republican for president in 2020, the gap would likely be narrow and unlikely to tip any electoral votes to the GOP.
(Maine awards two of its four electoral votes to the statewide winner and one each to the winner of each congressional district. Clinton took three of the four votes in 2016, for the state and the 1st Congressional District, which includes Lincoln County. She won the state by 3 points and the 1st District by 14 points. President Trump won the 2nd District by 10 points.)
Interestingly, Lincoln County is less predictable in local and state races. Our Maine Senate seat has flipped and flopped between Democrats and Republicans for the last decade, with three wins for each party.
To fill the nine seats in the Maine Legislature that represent some portion of Lincoln County, we sent seven Republicans to Augusta in 2016, only to boot four out two years later and fill six of the seats with Democrats and a left-leaning independent.
So does this D.C. newspaper have a point?
The best we can figure, the writer sees Lincoln County not as likely to tip the race itself, but as a lens through which to view the mood of the country and predict outcomes in swing states.
“Lincoln County reflects many of today’s most fraught political dividing lines all in one, and all well-balanced,” Wilson writes. “For two centuries it has been a working-class hub, home of shipbuilding industries and the lobster fisheries that give Maine its distinctive contribution to American cuisine.”
The article also notes the county’s popularity with tourists and wealthy retirees.
“Clinton won Lincoln County, 47.6 percent to 45.2 percent – nearly identical to her 2-point win in the popular vote,” Wilson notes later. “If Trump keeps his blue-collar base, or if ancestral Republicans break against him and cost him the White House, Lincoln County will be the microcosm through which to view the 2020 outcome.”
If Lincoln County is a “microcosm” of the political and cultural divide in America, we think this presents us with an opportunity.
If we can bridge this divide with civil dialogue and understanding, we can lead in a different way – not necessarily as a pundit’s predictor of the presidential race, but an example of how people with disparate beliefs can coexist and find common ground that allows us to work together for the benefit of all – not just one party or person.
The article from The Hill is available at https://bit.ly/2khB2AB for those who would like to read it for themselves.