Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Maine Democrat Jared Golden doubles down in opposition to student loan forgiveness, with implications for rural folks


The Portland Press-Herald (Maine) reported last week on U.S. Congressman Jared Golden's provocative statement opposing student loan forgiveness.  Golden, a Democrat, is a three-term incumbent from the state's second district, which leans Republican and includes vast rural areas.  Golden's career and politically pragmatic stances are discussed in three prior posts, which also provide more information on the demographics and economics of his congressional district.  

Golden's mid-August Tweet responded to a report from the Maine Beacon that Golden, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, had received a donation from Sallie Mae after he was one of two Democrats who joined Republicans in May to oppose Biden's student-loan relief program.  (The other was fellow leader of the "yellow-dog coalition," Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, of southwestern Washington State).  Golden's Tweet led with 

I've always held the opinion that working class Mainers shouldn't foot the bill for someone else's choices. Once again, radical leftist elites prove they don't understand Maine.

It then included this text:   

Sadly, this is what the radical leftist elites are learning about "democracy" these days:  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.  They were privileged to have the opportunity, andmany left college well-situted to make six figure salaries for life.  The Twitterati can keep bemoaning their privileged status and demanding handouts all they want, but as far as I’m concerned if they want free money for college, they can join the Marines and serve the country like I, and so many others, have in the past and many more will in the future. If they want a career and hard skills without college debt, they should join a union and enter an apprenticeship. But if they choose to attend college, they can pay back their loans just like working-class people pay back home mortgages, car loans, and many other expenses that people choose to take out loans for.

Golden's statement provoked lots of strong reaction on X, formerly known as Twitter.  One of those responding was Tiffany Bond, an independent who has twice challenged Golden in the past.  Bond broached the matter of the implications of Golden's position for rural Maine, writing:  

What the hell is wrong with you, Jared?  Rural Maine will have no dentists, doctors, lawyers, teachers or anyone requiring a professional education. You don’t understand rural Maine.

The Maine People’s Alliance account responded  “Really? I’m not sure the ‘Twitterati’ are the ones not understanding Maine right now.”

Academics responded, too.  History professor Heather Cox Richardson wrote, 

Heavens!  Did you really write this or have you been hacked?!? You always seemed a centrist voie of reason that represented your Maine district well.  What's with this "radical leftist elitists"?!? 

And University of Maine political science professor Amy Fried posted a few responses:

This language is divisive and nasty.  There is a real debate to be had about helping people go to and graduate college and if there are benefits to be gleaned by the whole society.  You've done nothing to contribute to that.  Just awful.  Don't think of running statewide, ever. 

An account holder called bre kidman's awkward blue check wrote: 

Yikes, bub.

Did you draw the short straw on making the cringe statement to get that Sallie Mae money for the team? You know college educated Mainers aren't making 6 figure salaries.

JS there are classier ways to quit Congress than slamming your constituents when they're down.
Then, from the same account: 
Also, real quick math question: how much money did Maine voters spend getting you elected to a job with a low six-figure salary?

The tone of Golden's statement--though not the substance--is in sharp contrast to the statement of another "rural" politician, former Montana Governor Steve Bullock who wrote in a New York Times op-ed in December, 2021

To overcome these obstacles [facing the Democratic party in rural America], Democrats need to show up, listen, and respect voters in rural America by finding common ground instead of talking down to them. Eliminating student loans isn’t a top-of-mind matter for the two-thirds of Americans lacking a college degree. Being told that climate change is the most critical issue our nation faces rings hollow if you’re struggling to make it to the end of the month.

Note that Bullock held himself out as representing what rural voters generally think, which is not necessarily the same as saying he would side with them on either student loan relief or climate change policies.  That is, we do not know what he thinks or what side he would land on faced with policies to ameliorate student debt or climate change.  What is clear is that Bullock's tone is more conciliatory than Golden's, that it leaves room for nuance and discussion.  

I blogged about Bullock's op-ed and the response to it in this post.

In any event, I'm curious to see how Golden's stance on student loan relief plays out when he's up for re-election next year.    

Here's an earlier post about higher education access for rural Mainers.

Cross-posted to Working Class Whites and the Law Blog and First Gen Course Blog.  

No comments: