voice for democracy

Opinion: CMP's pro-corridor campaign is an attack on our democracy – mainebeacon.com

I’m so mad about CMP/Versant and the current election and what’s coming that I’m not sure where to start. And it’s probably not for the reasons you think.
I could start with how mad I am about the over 70+ million dollars that is being spent on this referendum campaign, by both sides. Imagine what we could do with that kind of money to invest in renewables, green energy or even buying 10,000 Maine families efficient heat pumps. But no – we see countless ads, receive dozens of mail pieces daily that are, at best, confusing people while causing more environmental degradation.
Or I could talk about how mad I am about the fact that the over 50 million dollars being spent on the “no” side is money that has been made from us paying our electric bills – which include huge profit margins even though CMP is ranked among the worst in reliability and highest in cost. Versant isn’t much better. But that is a money and politics discussion that we can save for another day.
That’s not even it. Can you believe it?
What is really ticking me off is the sinister way CMP and Versant and their foreign investors and owners are destroying our democracy.
You’ve seen the ads. (You’d have to live under a rock or be dead not to see them). They don’t talk about the corridor – or even energy. They talk about how bad government is. How our legislature is “out to get you, your small business, and even your job.” “Don’t give any power to the politicians or the government.” And they spend millions to repeat the message over and over again.
You see, they couldn’t win on the arguments about the corridor, so they have pivoted to play on the cynicism about government started by Ronald Regan and fueled over the last 2 decades, reaching its pinnacle under Trump. You know, “government sucks, everything they do is terrible, government and politicians are the enemy.” All this coming at a time when we are maybe, just maybe, starting to see government as a force for good. If we had believed in our government, this whole pandemic thing would have been a lot easier to get over. But the cynics have gotten hold of a large part of our national and Maine psyche – and the CMP/Versant anti-government campaign is only making the distrust much worse.
Just once I wish they would take some responsibility for the long-term effects of this kind of campaign. Its effect on our our democracy. On how people respond to our laws. On whom decides to run for office. When people are deluged with ads to distrust and hate the government – it makes an effective democracy impossible. But CMP and Versant don’t care. They don’t have to. They are foreign-owned companies with foreign investors who couldn’t care less about our democracy. They don’t have to.
But I have to care. And you should, too.
Because in countless ways our democracy is hanging on by a thread. And there is one thing I am certain of. This message and the amount of money they are spending on the Corridor is going to look like child’s play when the question goes on the ballot to have consumers buy CMP and turn it in to “Our Power.” The facts on that one are clear too – Mainers owning our utilities means more consumer control, more reliability and cheaper prices. But they aren’t going to talk about that. They will, once again, talk about our government being evil – taking our democracy down further.
So how do we fight back? Point it out! Talk to your friends and neighbors and family members around the dinner table. Ask if anyone else is noticing the anti-government message that is fueling the campaign. Ask why they don’t think CMP is talking about the actual corridor. Or ask what will really happen when consumers own their utility.
And then sign the petition at the polls on November 2 to put “ Our Power” on the ballot next year.
Photo: Yes on 1 campaign official photo
Betsy Sweet is a progressive activist who has spent 40 years working to bring about a more just, equitable Maine. She has run for Governor, US Senate and now continues to advocate at the state house, hosts a weekly TV show "Maine Challenge", is a political commentator on WCSH. She is a mom of 3 grown daughters and one very adorable dog.
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