William Butler Yeats, perhaps the 20th century’s greatest poet, was also a politician. Unlike his poetic peers, who wandered far from practical concerns, Yeats remained grounded in his time and place.

Although Yeats was part of the ruling class in Ireland, and Anglo-Irish, he was a Nationalist who believed Ireland should be independent of Great Britain. Amid the chaos of partition — which divided the northernmost six counties, as British Northern Ireland, from the newly independent Republic of Ireland — Yeats took his seat in 1922 as a senator in the first Irish parliament, and served two terms.

It was not a comfortable fit, but he stuck with it, believing that even poets have public responsibilities. In “The Second Coming,” written in 1919, Yeats had given voice to his fears about the course of political upheavals he lived through: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”

Yeats might have been writing about our own time, when “passionate intensity” dwells in dark places, and political discourse has reached depths not plumbed before.

Yet the “Mere anarchy” Yeats envisioned “loosed upon the world,” may be averted. Voters seem to be taking the measure of Donald Trump, and Maine’s own Trump figure, Gov. Paul LePage, will begin to fade after this election, although — already in power — he remains worrisome.

When, as Yeats put it, “things fall apart,” and “the center cannot hold,” there are two possible courses for citizens. One is to steer clear of the nefarious business of politics. The other is to engage.


Fortunately for Maine’s future, the latter tendency is demonstrated by the cast of candidates for the Legislature we’ll elect on Nov. 8.

Because Maine’s House districts are small, and even senators represent only 37,000 constituents, you may not have noticed some of their names. The following are a sampling; you’ll have your own favorites, which I’d be glad to hear about.

Two Democratic women who were leaders in their fields are running for the House in “Republican” districts.

Theo Kalikow, the revered former president of the University of Maine at Farmington, is a candidate in Scarborough’s District 29, after also leading the University of Southern Maine.

Elinor Goldberg, former president of the Maine Children’s Alliance, is running in District 95, covering several Knox County towns. During a long career in social services, she always spoke up for children, who have no vote, and sometimes, not even a voice.

In the Senate, Republican David Emery is attempting a comeback in District 12, also in Knox County, 42 years after he shocked the political world by winning the 1st District congressional seat at age 26, ousting four-term Democratic incumbent Peter Kyros in 1974. Emery went on to lose to George Mitchell for U.S. Senate in 1982; his bid to win back his old 1st District seat in 1990 was unsuccessful.


Emery was among the veteran Republicans who tried to help LePage when he became governor in 2011, but left after LePage made it clear he really doesn’t listen to anyone. Now, Emery’s trying a different route, and I’m told he’s campaigning hard.

Among Democrats, Brownie Carson is bidding to represent the Brunswick area, Senate District 24. He’s a Marine Corps veteran who, deployed secretly to Cambodia, saw first-hand the disaster of Vietnam unfolding and then spoke out against it. Carson is best known to Mainers as the longtime director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, where his passion for the environment was unquenchable.

I’m also intrigued by the Senate pair who will soon be representing Portland; it will come as no surprise that they are Democrats.

Ben Chipman, one-time Green Party legislative staffer, has decided, like Bernie Sanders, to bring his talents over to the Democratic Party, which could use them. Maine Democrats have long lacked a liberal wing, and Chipman could help create one.

An altogether different political personality is Mark Dion, a former Cumberland County sheriff who’s now practicing law. Dion has the no-nonsense, irreverent persona that his party also lacks. He demands to be shown, not just told, why he should vote for a given bill.

There are others. Together, the candidate list provides reason to believe that, this time, legislators may be able to unite, to the extent possible, to counter a governor who’s shown steeply declining interest in his duties — and, when necessary, take appropriate action to rein him in.

We won’t know the extent of their success until next year, but if experience, talent, and commitment are any guide, there is room for hope.

Douglas Rooks has covered the State House for 32 years. His new book, “Statesman: George Mitchell and the Art of the Possible,” is now available. Comment is welcomed at: [email protected]

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