Dems should rally behind Angus King

We’re leaving the global agreement on climate change, making ourselves a laughingstock around the world. Millions of Americans are in danger of losing their health care. Science and knowledge are under assault. The new president and his administration are under investigation for colluding with the Russians. And the richest people in America are about to get another handout from Uncle Sam, while our bridges, schools, veterans, retirees and environment get shortchanged.

Brace yourself, folks, because it isn’t going to get better soon. Willful ignorance and unbridled greed are highly contagious diseases, and they’ve now spawned a plague in Washington, D.C., and the capitals of many states across the country.

What can be done about it? Take matters into your own hands, of course. Work at the local, state and regional level to push back. Be the future you want. And turn the tide.

And remember this, above all. The first line of defense against the spread of this epidemic of ignorance is the United States Senate. There, Republicans hold 52 seats out of 100. In 2018, they will need to defend just eight seats, mostly in states won by Trump. Democrats need to defend 25, including the two held by independents Angus King and Bernie Sanders. Wresting control of the Senate from Republicans is an uphill battle.

How can Maine Democrats do their part? Rally behind Angus King, to ensure that his seat will not, under any circumstances, add to the Republican advantage.

If it seems hard to imagine King losing next year, I invite you to remember how impossible it seemed that Paul LePage would win re-election or that Donald Trump would become the president of the United States.

Here’s exactly how it could happen. Republicans put up a strong opponent who is not expected to win but who is auditioning for a major role in the future. Democrats don’t put up a serious candidate, since King is well-liked across the party, but someone comes out of the woodwork to find 15 minutes of fame.

National Democrats withhold financial and organizational support from their own candidate. Many leading Democrats in Maine line up to publicly endorse King. But with two candidates firing away at King, the race tightens. In the end, the Democrat siphons off just enough votes to hand King’s seat to a Republican.

That scenario is exactly what happened to Bernie Sanders in his first race for Congress in 1988. Bernie was running as an independent. Democrats agreed with him on most issues, but still wanted a candidate of their own.

Sanders ran a strong campaign. Voters liked what they heard, and he had every chance to win. In the end, the Democrat finished a distant third, but pulled just enough votes from Sanders to hand a 3 percent victory to the Republican.

Vermont Democrats learned the hard way that the most important thing in the world is not the letter after a candidate’s name but where they stand on the major issues, how well they connect with the public, and what their impact is on the state and the nation.

Angus King is an independent, and that won’t change. But he caucuses with Democrats, as does Sanders. He agrees with the party on nearly every major issue. He’s smart, hardworking and principled, well-liked by Mainers and already considered among the most highly-regarded senators in the country.

So it’s time for Democrats to do both the smart thing and the right thing. Support the movement to take control of the Senate away from Trump’s enablers. Openly and enthusiastically support Angus King. Then, with your voices and checkbooks, discourage other Democrats from running who won’t pledge to pull out of the race in the final weeks if they cannot win.

This is not a tough call. Democrats will not find a candidate better than Angus King, and we all know it. They can only find a spoiler. And that’s a luxury that none of us can afford.

Last week, the Georgetown Democratic Committee endorsed Angus King, who is a summer resident there. In part, I suspect, they did that because they’ve seen Angus up close, as a neighbor and friend. But it’s also because they know that he’s been doing a great job in Washington, and deserves to be returned.

Good for them. Now other local and county Democratic committees should do the same. Put yourself on record. Take a vote to endorse Angus. Then, endorse him at the state convention, just as Vermont Democrats have done with Bernie.

That would be good for Democrats, and even better for Maine and for the country.

Alan Caron, a Waterville native, is the principle of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” (2015) and “Reinventing Maine Government” (2010). He can be reached at: [email protected]