The country is struggling to emerge from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Millions are out of work and many more are struggling with wages that do not pay enough to lift them out of poverty. The gap between rich and poor is greater now than it was in the Gilded Age.

So hollowed out is our once vaunted democracy that it is rightly dismissed as an oligarchy, not just as an expression of sentiment but based on hard empirical evidence. But we would never know it if we attended Maine’s Republican Convention.

Featured guest and presidential hopeful, Rand Paul of Kentucky highlighted his passion for shrinking government by cutting Social Security and Medicaid. In the context of having replaced democracy with oligarchy, comes the bizarre invocation to eviscerate the remaining core of the social safety net.

Sensing a receptive crowd, Paul went on to advise that the GOP reach out to the nation’s working-class majority with the Party’s unique sense of “optimism” about how making the poor poorer is in their best interest.

Sen. Susan Collins extended the theme by slamming the Affordable Care Act. Betraying no sense of irony, Bruce Poliquin inveighed against career politicians while standing on the shoulders of Maine’s most iconic careerists, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Poliquin and Kevin Raye failed to distinguish themselves with lifeless jabs at the Affordable Care Act or their ecology-threatening commitment to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Poliquin cast himself as a “fiscal watchdog.” Raye, conveying greater ambition, said, “It’s time for us to stop the spin. It’s time for us to tell the truth.” They failed on both counts.

Gov. Paul LePage closed the atavistic affair by saying, “I get accused of waging war on the poor.” That, he does. And with good reason, so should his supporters.

Christopher McKinnonAugusta