Small Town Maine Takes to a Bridge for Protest
The towns of Damariscotta and Newcastle, Maine are very small (with populations of just 2,200 and 1,700 people respectively). So are the towns surrounding them. When 180 people turned out to the demonstrate on the bridge connecting the two on a winter’s day, the event was newsworthy.
Organized by Lincoln County, Maine Indivisible, a spontaneous local group adopting the activist strategy of the Indivisible Guide, this protest was focused on the effort by Republican Party to strip away millions of Americans’ health care.
As we stood on the bridge between the two towns, a few of us pulled out our phones and tried calling Senator Susan Collins’ offices to provide on-the-ground feedback. Senator Collins has acted this year to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but hasn’t offered a complete plan to replace it. Her partial plan would let conservative state governments rip people’s health insurance away from them, and here in Maine with paleoGovernor Paul LePage in charge, that danger is not abstract. Actual health insurance would be replaced with Health Savings Accounts, which people working from paycheck to paycheck (thanks to reward-the-rich, soak-the-working-poor Republican policy priorities passed by the likes of Senator Collins) wouldn’t be able to afford.
We weren’t able to actually contact Senator Collins’ Portland or Augusta offices: voicemail boxes were full from constituents who had already been calling her with similar worries, concerns and criticisms. Rather than fixing her voicemail system to allow more people to share voicemail messages, Senator Collins has asked a Maine activist group to help her stop people from calling her offices on the phone.
We did finally get through to Senator Collins’ Washington, DC and Lewiston offices. Not to actual people, mind you, but at least there was some space left on the Senator’s voicemail at those locations. We left voice mail messages with the Senator with this crowd chant: “Susan Collins, Where Are You?” Despite multiple requests by thousands of Mainers for a public town hall, Senator Collins and her staff continue to adamantly refuse to attend them.
This protest was not alone. More protesters concerned about Susan Collins’ plan and other Republican plans to take away Americans’ health insurance descended upon the state’s capital city of Augusta on the same afternoon. At 3 pm, Bangor residents held a town hall for Republican Representative Bruce Poliquin — who, like his colleague Susan Collins, didn’t show up. One day, these politicians may find themselves feeling compelled to attend public events and listen to their constituents. If they don’t, they may find themselves on the political sidelines, wondering just when it was that the world passed them by.