In the midst of a deeply dismaying, rapidly deteriorating presidential race, what responsibility do Maine’s elected representatives have to the voting public? What bearing can they have on the contest?

The questions came up a couple of times in Maine last week, as constituents reacted strongly to the respective positions of Rep. Jared Golden and Gov. Janet Mills. The answer to both is: very little.

Let’s review.

Golden, in a Bangor Daily News op-ed on the topic of the presidency, attempted some interesting rhetorical acrobatics. The congressman, pleasing exactly nobody, said that he wouldn’t give former President Donald Trump his vote but that he was “OK” with him winning in November, as he expects Trump to.

The National Republican Campaign Committee condemned this no-position position, calling it “a blatant election-year tactic.” Golden’s challenger in the 2nd Congressional District, Austin Theriault, swiftly and merrily seized on what he saw as ammunition, headlining a statement in response to Golden’s opinion piece “Phony Golden Pretends to Toss Biden Overboard.”

Voters for whom being “OK” with a Trump victory is a shameful and untenable position, and those eager for a clear call for President Biden to drop out, weren’t at all happy with Golden, either.

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The heightened desperation felt over the state of the race, tension driven to stratospheric heights after Biden’s very watery debate performance on June 27, is spilling out in every direction. Gov. Mills’ meeting with Biden last week – Mills was one of two dozen Democratic state governors who sat down with the president last Wednesday – also seemed to antagonize voters.

With the meeting alone interpreted as support of Biden, even if Mills went out of her way to explain that she conveyed her concerns to the president, commenting readers of this newspaper and others said they felt let down by their governor.

Let’s say Mills and Golden were unequivocal in their stances, as politicians so rarely are. What then?

It is possible that not speaking on the matter would be better than speaking out of both sides of one’s mouth. It is also the case that – whatever is said or done – Biden will either drop out of the race or he won’t; that clamoring for yet more clamor is a waste of our time and energy; and that the 2024 presidential election will be decided by voters, who have never in history been in possession of more evidence to inform their choice.

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