How to explain yourself, Jared Golden style
By Matthew Gagnon
“Dear Mainer,” a Substack newsletter published by U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, purports to be “a look under the hood on my approach to politics, policy making, and representing you in Congress.” To date, he has written for it only three times, most recently this Tuesday.
It is easy to be cynical about something like this in a politician. I believe they are typically self-obsessed marketing hounds who are desperate to raise their profile or ingratiate themselves to the voters. Furthermore, in a state that has a history of snake-oil salesmen, including a senator peddling a self-created mythology about his own political independence, I am always on alert for talented politicians using any means at their disposal to craft their own narrative.
And yet, when you read Golden’s writing, which very much appears to be in his own hand without the filter of consultants and communications professionals, it is hard not to be left feeling like you are reading something else entirely.
Take, for instance, his latest entry. In the piece, titled “Thoughts on Reactions to My Student Loan Forgiveness Statement,” Golden writes more than 2,100 words in reaction to a recent “controversy” he was dragged into by the Beacon, a publication of the progressive Maine People’s Alliance.
Specifically, he was reacting to the reaction to his reaction (yes, seriously) to a piece that ran in the Beacon two weeks ago. In that post, the Beacon attempted to link Golden and others in the Blue Dog Coalition with some kind of quid-pro-quo kickback on student debt relief, noting a donation to the coalition from the student loan financing company Sallie Mae after Golden voted against President Joe Biden’s student loan cancellation plan. Golden was one of only two Democrats who supported a resolution that sought to stop the plan.
Golden, who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, objected in very strong language that raised some eyebrows. “Sadly, this is what radical leftist elites are learning about ‘democracy’ these days,” he posted on X, “silence and destroy anyone who disagrees with your views or goals. I stand by my vote and my opposition to forking out $10,000 to people who freely chose to attend college.” He went on to bemoan the “Twitterati” for demanding handouts, before suggesting they join the Marines, as he did, if they wanted taxpayer support for college.
The reaction to this take was bemused support for his position and his reaction in conservative circles, and wailing temper tantrums among progressives. It was in this context that he decided to write his latest “Dear Mainer” letter, explaining his use of “radical leftist” language and his position on debt relief, among other things.
“A radical leftist elitist,” he explained, “is ideologically rigid and close-minded and demonstrates open hostility or condescension toward anyone who holds differing viewpoints. For these people, any dissenting opinion must be the result of either bad character or ignorance.”
He went on to rail against ivory tower elites who sneer at working-class Americans, particularly those who support politicians like Donald Trump.
I was more than a little stunned by his candor in the letter. Critics of Golden would likely accuse him of playing to the conservative majority in his district by attacking the radical left, in the hopes that he would win some of the right’s affection. Yet while this could be a strategy, it is not the typical kind of thing one does if they are trying to masquerade as a moderate centrist.
The safer and more politically beneficial way — the strategy often employed by Angus King, for instance — is to pay lip service to token conservative causes while not antagonizing the highly influential and powerful base of his own party. By pushing back so strenuously against his party’s activist base, Golden is demonstrating a fair amount of political independence and bravery that is worthy of complimenting.
Golden said a lot more than just this, and his letter is worth reading. He discussed his perspective on the student loan forgiveness issue, saying that it was a “poorly crafted fiscal policy” that was “unaccompanied by any meaningful reforms to put a stop to the ever-escalating cost of a college education.”
He also discussed issues of class and politics at length. He railed against big money interests, think tanks and snobs who view the military as a trap or prison for powerless people. I didn’t agree with everything I read, but I found it to be an intelligent and thoughtful attempt to describe his thinking, and I appreciate what he was doing.
I hope he continues to do this, and other elected officials learn from what he is doing. Like him or not, this is a welcome thing to see.