The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Only Turkeys Don't Vote

Posted by | November 22, 2014

Can't we all just get along?

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 11/23/2014.

The most important thing I can say about this year’s midterm election is simply: thank you for voting.

Maine had the highest voter turnout in the entire 50 states, with 59.3% of us going to the polls, well above the national average of 36%. If it was the “gu-bear-natorial” nature of our election, so be it: each vote tallied was an expression of individual preference. Some races were decided by single digits; others, by lopsided majorities. In each race, and on each ballot question, we now know what a majority of our fellow Mainers decisively think. That’s valuable information and worth thinking about.

If you voted and also volunteered at a polling station, thank you even more. In South Portland, where I live, the volunteers’ good cheer and gentle assistance guided me through a painless process. I was in and out in eight minutes. It was an honor to work with my smiling neighbors to make my voice heard.

Thank you for overwhelmingly approving Question 6 in Maine, whose $10 million bond for water infrastructure and wetlands protection projects will help our state catch up to the warmer, wetter, more flood-prone climate we’re now living in. Maine’s Question 6 joined $29 billion in land and water conservation initiatives around the country. With that much money approved to protect natural resources in states red and blue, it strikes me as a little odd to hear the new Congress talking so eagerly about dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency or the landmark [Republican] environmental laws that have kept our skies, coasts, and rivers clean since the early 1970s. Certainly the agencies that safeguard the air we breathe and the water we drink can be made more efficient – any operation can. But I wouldn’t want to go back to a world of rampant litter, burning rivers, and silent springs.

Any mudslinging from the contestants, or on their behalf by groups from away, thankfully also ended on Election Night. The losers were gracious in defeat, as we expect Mainers to be. Those dismayed voters decrying the failure of their agenda, or an end of civility, or of the democratic process, can be forgiven their hyperbole. Campaigns necessarily highlight extremes to make our choices as clear as possible; once they're through, effective governing requires compromise, nuance, and the best ideas from all sides. The middle is where the life is. After all, every Mainer knows that extremes only happen four times a day: our coast spends most of its time between high tide and low, and so should our legislatures and executives.

I think the most important thing to remember is that the election’s winners, all of them, work for us. Let us not be shy about telling them what we think they should do: an election is a performance review, but not the only one. As our employees and our representatives, our elected officials have but one mandate: to advance our collective interests through our civil institutions, using our tax money. The more often our representatives hear from us, in between elections, the better they will do. As a number of us think they can’t do much worse, it seems like doing better is the only possible option.

 

Nik Charov is president of Laudholm Trust, the nonprofit partner of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, Maine. His Sunday column, “Between Two Worlds,” ventures forth from the intersection of art and science, past and future, policy and impolitic. More at wellsreserve.org/twoworlds.

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