The Maine Millennial: Maine Republicans are no longer a race apart

I told my friends on the road that Maine’s Republicans were different from the rest of the country’s socially regressive fundamentalist political party.

My theory was that a combination of Maine’s cultural tradition of “mind our own damn business” and our state’s relative lack of organized religion kept the worst of conservative social beliefs at bay. Maine Republicans wanted lower taxes and fewer regulations on business, and maybe they didn’t particularly like immigrants, but the existence of gay men, birth control, and abortion didn’t bother them.

Hell, I even voted a few Republicans in my time — Susan Collins in 2014 and Don Marean, who was my longtime state representative. During his last term in office, he also quietly gave up his party affiliation and became an independent legislator. It was a bold move and I admired it.

I had to eat those words and I have to say they taste pretty bitter. Conservative Christian social theology has completely taken over the party core of the Maine Republican Party. I read about their updated party platform. Among other things, they want to ban all sex-based material from public schools up to the 12th grade. This would effectively ban all sex education.

The funny thing is, I actually had the kind of education that Republicans are trying to legislate for everyone else’s kids. From Kindergarten to 12th grade I attended Catholic schools. St. Patrick’s School and Catherine McAuley High School in Portland – both unfortunately closed. Prayer was in the classroom and sex education was out. We started the school day with prayer, prayed the prayer of grace before lunch, and had a crucifix over every door. (It’s still weird to see classrooms without them.) I’ve never had a sex education class unless you count “The Miracle of Life” in first year health class. Watching a film about a live birth as a 13-year-old girl who can’t even comfortably recognize tampons might have some contraceptive effect (studies should be done).

And yet I ended up semi-gay and with more sexual partners than most people would probably want for their daughter.

Luckily, I received good sex education at home and was able to successfully avoid STIs and unplanned pregnancies. But not everyone is lucky enough to have parents like mine. Knowledge is power, and if you don’t give children power over their own bodies, who has that power?

By the way, I have no regrets about my pastoral training. I had the very best teachers and assistants and principals and canteen ladies that a girl could wish for. There was a lot of emphasis on volunteering and community service, and of course my schooling helped make me the writer I am today. But if you’re looking for a way to ensure your children are straight virgins until marriage? Religious education does not offer this guarantee.

The Maine Republican Party also officially opposes gay marriage, which was legalized in Maine by a popular referendum literally 10 years ago. I hope ordinary voters will realize how daft this opposition makes Republicans appear. What’s your plan here? Forced Gay Divorces? Automatic termination? Or did they just want to make sure their disapproval of other people’s love lives was widely registered?

Senator Susan Collins, reportedly a moderate, also delivered an unusually fiery speech in which she warned of “immigrants illegally flooding unchecked across our southern border.” I passed that on to my mom, and my mom honestly thought Collins was talking about New Hampshire. Personally, I’m not worried about our country’s border with Mexico. This is Maine. We are over 2,200 miles from Mexico. I would be more interested in the concerns Collins might have about our country’s border with Canada, which actually touches our state, but no one is driven into a frenzy of racial fear and distrust by the prospect of Canadians.

News of the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion overthrowing Roe v. Wade hit my Twitter feed just as I was finalizing the draft of this column. Perhaps there was a time when the Maine Republican Party believed in the physical autonomy of American citizens, including women. In the end, if you asked most Mainers if they think people should be forced through nine months of pregnancy against their will, they would say absolutely not. But based on what we’ve seen of this convention, we can’t rely on it. The Maine Republican Party lost that independent streak. They’re like Republicans everywhere.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a millennial from Maine. She can be reached at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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