On November 21, newly registered Republican Shawn Moody announced his bid for governor. This is the second time Mr. Moody has run for the office. The first, he ran as an independent candidate against Governor LePage. This time, he seems to be positioning himself as LePage’s heir, with all of the disastrous policies that such an alignment potentially implies. After all, LePage’s daughter Lauren and the governor’s political advisor Brent Littlefield are on Moody's campaign team.
When he announced his candidacy, Mr. Moody talked passionately, if vaguely, about the need for Maine "to get ahead," and he reflected on the hardships he faced during his childhood growing up in poverty. One would have hoped that the realities of lower-working class existence would have taught Mr. Moody a lasting lesson about the struggles of working Mainers. His speech, however, reflected an unrealistic vision of what it takes to succeed in a capitalist society. Having succeeded in business himself, he seems to think that anybody can achieve comparable success, and he employs the same tired “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” rhetoric that has long been used to silence objections from the working class that the deck is stacked against us (which it is).
This kind of talk ignores the fact that nowhere in Maine — nowhere in the country — can a minimum wage worker working a full-time job afford the cost of rent for an apartment. How are workers supposed to succeed — or “get ahead” — if we have no money left to save after spending our paychecks on the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter? Where is the opportunity for advancement if, for the average worker, the struggle for mere survival controls our lives and rules out all else?
Hard work alone does not necessarily lead to success; if that were the case, everyone working 40 hours or more a week would be thriving. Economic and social realities of capitalism mean that workers do not even always survive, let alone succeed. Success would require the support of a government that cares about the well-being of its citizens. Unfortunately, Mr. Moody’s speech expressed a thinly veiled contempt for social safety net policies meant to level the playing field and ease the struggles of working Mainers. Positioning himself as the scolding patriarch of all Mainers who work for a living, he dismissed social policies as “giving people something for free, [which] doesn’t stoke their ambition. I know going without can be a pretty good motivator.”
Maine workers have plenty of “motivation.” We take pride in an honest day’s work. What we do need is fair wages, healthcare, and the opportunity to make our voices heard in government. Unfortunately, a Moody government looks like one that would ignore workers’ voices and needs. That’s not motivational, Mr. Moody, that’s a recipe for apathy.
For our next governor, we need someone who understands that working Mainers, and not the already wealthy, deserve support. Personally, I would like to see someone who believes in the principles of fairness, community, and democracy get into the Blaine House. We need someone who recognizes that workers deserve both a better standard of living than hard-earned subsistence and more say in the decisions that affect their everyday lives.
The Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America, of which I am a member, fight for such working class issues. In the last election, we endorsed ballot measures — such as Medicaid expansion — and candidates (such as Joey Brunelle) that support the working class, not ignore them in the name of “motivation.” I hope a better candidate than Moody is in the field for governor. Maine needs someone who a working class group like the DSA could support: someone who understands that “going without” food, fair wages, and healthcare isn’t “motivating,” it’s cruelty.
Jeremy Mele, Sanford resident and member of the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America
This letter has been edited for space and clarity.