THE NATIVE CONSERVATIVE is no more. In 1991, I gave Doug Rooks, then the newspaper’s editorial page editor, a bunch of suggested names for my column when it started running weekly.
Rooks chose “The Native Conservative,” although neither of us especially liked it. At the time, the paper was trying to distinguish between liberal and conservative columnists.
I always hoped they’d also have “The Liberal From Away” column, but no one stepped up to do that. Understandable. Everyone wants to at least pretend that they’re from Maine.
I don’t think the name begins to explain my column topics or my personal point of view. These days, I seek collaboration and cooperation from our political leaders, practice nonpartisanship in my politics, and write mostly about issues that reflect my love for rural Maine and the lifestyle and natural resources we enjoy here.
As I’ve read through many of my columns generated since I started the weekly column in 1991, to select my favorites for a book to be published by Islandport Press next year, I have been surprised that many — perhaps even most — are not about politics. The book will feature columns about family, friends, faith, home, camp, Maine life, hunting, fishing and other outdoor fun.
In addition to this editorial page column, most of my other writing these days involves outdoor and travel news and opportunities.
Today the words “native” and “conservative” are almost offensive, at least in the context in which I am now writing and working. So it’s time for a name change. The new title for this weekly column, Maine Stream, reflects both my topics and my politics.
We must put partisanship aside and work together. Let it begin with me.
Of course, I remain a native (can’t ever do anything about that!), a Republican, and (fairly) conservative. But I’ve learned to be more than that over the last 30 years. I had a lot of good teachers.
When I began lobbying at the Legislature in 1991 for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I had to take off my Republican hat and become nonpartisan. Democratic Rep. Paul Jacques — a powerhouse and the leader for sportsmen in the House during his many years there — helped SAM and me move onto the nonpartisan road.
I also learned that real political leaders lead for the center, not from the far right or far left. And I came to realize that sportsmen are no longer a majority and need the support of environmentalists to succeed and save our outdoor heritage.
As I reached out to environmental groups and leaders for help and support, I made many friends in that community, friends who also widened my view of what it means to be an environmentalist. And surprise! I discovered I am one. I think most real sportsmen are environmentalists, too.
My wife and children have had the biggest impact. I like to tell the story that Linda and I made a terrible mistake when we raised our kids. We taught them to think for themselves, and they all became Democrats.
Today I would have to say Linda, Rebekah, Joshua and Hilary are all thoughtful nonpartisan citizens, who I lean on for advice and direction. They may be astonished to read this, but it’s true.
I also have watched as independent leaders such as Angus King have stepped up at both the state and federal level to talk sense and try to get things done. Both major political parties, in Maine and nationally, as well as the Maine Legislature and the United States Congress, disappoint and frustrate me these days.
You probably won’t notice much of a change in my topics or opinions. Next week, for example, I’ll be writing about a new report outlining the terrible impacts of climate change on my beloved brook trout. The following week, we’ll take a look at the 2nd District congressional race.
Quite often, readers will ask how I could ever come up with an idea for a column every week for 22 years. My response is always, “Are you kidding? Don’t you read the newspaper? Something aggravates me every day!” You shall continue to read about my aggravations, once a week, right here.
To be honest, however, I seem to be adrift, without a political team to play for. So I begin, with this column, to swim in the Maine Stream. Perhaps you will join me there.
George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.