Mainer enthusiastically endorses independent Lisa Savage for U.S. Senate. We also recommend voters mark Democrat Sara Gideon second on their ranked-choice ballot, so if Savage gets fewer votes than Gideon in the first rounds of counting, those ballots will add to Gideon’s total, helping to prevent a disastrous fifth term for Republican Susan Collins.
Lisa Savage is the real deal. As detailed in a profile we published last month, she’s dedicated the past 25 years of her life to public service, working as a schoolteacher and union leader in the impoverished backwoods of rural Maine, and as an activist for peace, justice and ecological sanity. This experience guides her progressive approach to public policy.
Unlike millionaires like Collins and Gideon, Savage knows there’s no such thing as “affordable” healthcare or “affordable” higher education for most Mainers, who scrape by from paycheck to paycheck. And she knows the penny-ante measures championed by both major parties, like cheaper prescription drugs or “middle class” tax breaks, are pitifully insufficient to achieve even the basic goal of ensuring all Americans have the financial security to lead a fulfilling life.
To realize this goal, Savage advocates “Medicare for All” — a fully funded public health-insurance program that would also cover dental and mental-health care. She supports tuition-free education at public universities and the abolition of student debt. And she has plans to connect and revitalize Maine communities by expanding high-speed Internet service via a public utility and rebuilding our roads, bridges and rail lines.
Savage has enlightened proposals to address our most pressing social problems (you can read her positions here). One of the biggest planks in her platform is a “Demilitarized Green New Deal” that would create tens of thousands of good jobs in Maine doing the crucial work necessary to help avert the most apocalyptic consequences of the climate crisis.
Savage wisely, and bravely, links her climate activism to the promotion of peace, a concept missing from the morally bankrupt politics of Democrats and Republicans. She’d slash the bloated and wasteful military budget by at least half and close the hundreds of overseas bases that “are turning our republic into a bankrupt empire.” She’d also halt arms sales to “human rights abusers,” make a serious effort to eliminate nuclear weapons, and push to end economic sanctions that actually punish the people, not the leaders, of nations our government doesn’t like.
Most of Savage’s ideas have broad public support. The politicians she’s challenging have, for years, proven themselves unable or unwilling to appreciably improve the lives of their constituents, and this year their negligence caused a catastrophe. Both Collins and Gideon hold powerful positions in their parties, and both have failed to avert the mass suffering and economic devastation wrought by the pandemic. Confronted this summer with the strongest demand for racial justice in generations, they’ve offered nothing but anodyne soundbites.
Ranked-choice voting should make Savage a serious contender in this race, but her grassroots campaign has struggled to overcome the tidal wave of corporate cash being blown by (and on behalf of) the major-party candidates. Meanwhile, the wave of excitement stirred by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid petered out with his candidacy this spring. Pummeled by the pandemic and the police, the “radical left” has ditched its dreams and clung to the only political force standing between itself and a racist regime openly calling for its destruction: the Donkey Party.
Gideon, a state legislator from Freeport who serves as Speaker of the Maine House, is challenging Collins on the incumbent’s ideological turf: the muddy middle ground where “moderate” Republicans once roamed. Thus, the Dems’ alternative to Collins this year is also a pro-corporate militarist who opposes universal health care, refuses to back action on the climate crisis commensurate with the existential threat it poses, and would not shift a dime from police to social and health programs that actually reduce crime.
This cynical strategy seems to be working for Gideon, but it may not be enough. She’s leading Collins in the polls, but not by more than the “margin of error,” and some surveys of voters have omitted Savage and the fourth candidate in this race, wacky Trump acolyte Max Linn.
Linn will most likely be eliminated first, and Collins stands to gain a lot of votes from Linn supporters who rank her second. To win, Collins would then only need a bare majority in what, at that stage, would be a three-way contest against two candidates who’ve effectively split the “liberal” half of the electorate.
If the additional votes from Linn’s supporters aren’t enough to put Collins over the top, the votes Gideon gains from Savage’s backers will almost certainly give her the victory. That’d be a loss for Savage, but still a gain for voters of conscience, because it would thenceforth be clear to Gideon that she serves at the pleasure of Maine’s progressives. Keep pissing us off when you’re in the Senate, Sara, and we’ll guarantee your first term is your last.