US election: Truth about disunited state of American politics, according to Angus King, the Scottish voice of Maine

Share this article
Have your say

The new senator for Maine came on stage on Tuesday night to the sound of bagpipes. Angus King jokingly told The Scotsman he planned to be the first Angus in the Senate, and that he did indeed have Scottish roots. But he also offered his analysis of what has gone wrong with US politics.

Mr King is a canny old hand. He is 68, was governor of Maine, with a population of 1.3 million, for 18 years until 2003, also as an independent, and so well known that he campaigns simply as Angus. When he won as governor, the Skye Boat Song rang out at rallies.

He was a lawyer, ran a conservation energy firm and was a television host. As governor, he ran a programme to equip all schoolchildren with laptops, but also had teachers fingerprinted for background checks.

In New England, he’s billed as a Barack Obama supporter who would replace the long-time Republican, Olympia Snowe, a moderate centrist, but who retired citing her frustration with partisan politics.

On the eve of his election, Mr King told The Scotsman: “The system of primary elections has driven candidates to the Right and Left. The simple fact of politicians working three days a week in Washington, and then heading home, means they don’t really know each other well enough to come to the table.”

Then there is the “polarisation of the news business”. From the 1970s to the 1990s, people got their news, and their political facts, from the three main networks. But the past decade has seen the rise of the Murdoch-owned Fox News channel, with an openly conservative agenda.

“If you are a conservative you watch Fox News, if you are a liberal you watch MSNBC, and if you are between you watch CNN,” Mr King said. “We don’t have a common understanding of the facts on any particular issue.”

Without that, he said, it was virtually impossible to find the middle ground.