FOR MANY YEARS NOW, I have witnessed and wondered about an undeniable obsession by the national media to focus political attention on matters of race and sexual orientation.

I have asked myself, as I suspect the “silent majority” does, why all the attention on two categories of Americans? What percentage of people do these minorities represent? So I “Googled” the numbers to find out.

The headline on the Google site page read, “How many Americans self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender?” The last Gallup Poll, largest of its kind ever conducted on this subject, puts the number at 3.4 percent.

Next, “What is the percentage of blacks (African-Americans) in the USA?” The answer came back, according to the last census: 13.6 percent. (In Maine, it’s only 1.3 percent.) The census went further, projecting the national black population will grow only to 15 percent by the year 2050.

The poll and the census did not surprise me. I am part of the majority, but would never discriminate against either minority.

These findings led me naturally to my next question: Do these statistical facts pass the common sense test for continuing to obsess politically about matters of sexual orientation or race ? I believe that both groups, gays and blacks, with help from the majority of us, have made great strides in achieving equality. We all should be pleased with their progress. I also am aware that we must always remain vigilant in opposing all forms of discrimination.

Let us agree that it doesn’t affect their qualifications for office because U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is gay or that President Barack Obama is black. I care where the candidates stand on critical issues affecting our standard of living (the economy), the path they chart for the future of our country and how they will protect the lives of our citizens. Enough, already, let’s solve some of our real problems.

The national political obsession on matters of morality seems to be becoming part of the Maine governors race. The two candidates offering an alternative to Gov. Paul LePage’s re-election appear to be tripping all over themselves to establish favor with supporters of gay marriage. Even the Catholic’s new leader, Pope Francis, has declared this subject, along with abortion, to have “become an obsession.”

Eliot Cutler’s endorsements from some of the earliest champions of gay marriage in Maine may have caused Michaud to reveal his own sexual orientation. Michaud’s supporters, I think, have been telling him that Cutler may be gaining with the more progressive wing of the Democrats.

New York’s archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, appeared on “Meet the Press” on Dec. 1 He said, “Gay marriage is the most divisive issue in American politics.” So I wonder why in Maine, where gay marriage is the law, would that be an issue in this campaign?

Then there’s Cutler’s unequivocal support, highlighted on his website, of a “woman’s right to choose.” Cutler implies that he is the only one of the three candidates who has always been on the side of women’s “reproductive rights.”

This could be a problematic issue for Michaud with some women, since as a Catholic, he was considered “pro-life” earlier in his political career.” This issue has remained controversial since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Michaud, in Congress, has established a reputation as a somewhat conservative Democrat. That appears to be bothering some Michaud supporters and party leaders. Cutler plans to score points with that.

I find it ironic that, facing an incumbent Republican governor with a high unfavorability rating, the Democratic and independent opponents have decided to “duke it out” for votes of the most progressive element of the electorate.

I don’t think it wise politically for Michaud and Cutler to run a race to establish who is the most “liberal,” at a time when the center electorate craves a problemsolver who will forge compromises toward real solutions in Augusta. I suspect that voters don’t believe that an obsession with personal issues is what this election should be all about.

I agreed with Michaud, when following his announcement, he said his sexual orientation “is a private matter.” An obsession by the national media to spend their time on promoting the liberalization of our society, rather than concentrating on our huge debt and sputtering economy, is not helping us to decide who to vote for.

Michaud and Cutler need to focus on the critical issues of the day, rather than on the most divisive moral issues. If they don’t, then they should prepare for the possibility of a controversial, conservative governor winning re-election by focusing on issues more popular than he is: more jobs, lower taxes, welfare reform and less government intrusion in our lives.

Addendum: This column was written and submitted for deadline before the passing of Nelson Mandela.

I would like to add my salute to the man who will always remain as the symbol of the fight against racism throughout the world. Mandela will never be forgotten.

Don Roberts is a former city councilor and vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta. He is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District, and a representative to the Legislative Policy Committee of Maine Municipal Association.

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