One of the most encouraging results of the Nov. 3 election, to me, was the prevalence of split tickets in Lincoln County as well as state and nationwide.
As the Democratic and Republican parties try to divide us, a large number of Mainers and Americans continue to reject their message of division and vote instead — as we all should — for individuals, values, and ideas rather than parties.
A wise man once told me, “If you vote a straight ticket all your life, you’ll vote for a lot of crooks.”
Now, a cynic might adjust that to say, “If you vote your whole life, you’ll vote for a lot of crooks,” and the cynic might be right too.
But to vote blindly for either party shows a closed-minded refusal to hold bad actors or ineffective leaders accountable, regardless of party.
Does a candidate share my values? Does a candidate have ideas for how to solve the problems I view as most urgent in my community, state, or nation? Does a candidate demonstrate integrity and ability through their words and actions? These are the questions I ask when I think about how I will vote.
None of this is to say voters make the right decision all the time or always elect the candidate of the best character — far from it.
But at a time when the division in our community, state, and country seems impossible to overcome, it gives me hope to know that many voters continue to ignore the all-or-nothing, you’re-with-us-or-against-us mentality of both parties and make independent, thoughtful decisions.
Here in Maine, voters backed Democrat Joe Biden for president and Republican Susan Collins for U.S. senator, both by comfortable margins. Up in the 2nd Congressional District, voters backed Republican President Donald Trump but gave Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden a second term.
These results show Biden voters backing Collins, a moderate Republican more similar in temperament, if not policy, to Biden than Trump — and the subject of a smear campaign attempting to cast her as a corrupt extremist.
Meanwhile, thousands of Trump voters backed Golden rather than the Trump loyalist challenging him, despite Republican attempts to paint the freshman congressman — and Marine veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq — as an anti-American extremist.
Look across the chart of Lincoln County results and you will see evidence of ticket-splitting in local legislative races too.
We need to come together in this country, even as both parties do their utmost to tear us apart. The more we reject the parties’ message of division — and ticket-splitting is a sign of this rejection, as is the outnumbering of Democrats and Republicans by independents in Maine — the better chance we have that the parties will begin to rethink their strategies and their leadership.