THE BLOG

Return to Paradise: A Different Election Story

05/25/2011 12:50 pm ET

For all the circus-like turbulence that the American political system goes through every four years, there ended up being only one headline this election. But there were many stories.

Most occur far from the limelight, yet they have their own impact, even if just on the local lives they touch. Occasionally, though, some manage to have an effect nationally, as well.

Back in June, 2006, I wrote a piece here, "Paradise Found! An Actual, Good Person in Government." It told about a remarkable person, Chellie Pingree, who had been Majority Leader in the state senate of Maine. She ran for the U.S. Senate in 2002, but got bowled over by the Bush Tsunami that year. It didn't help that she ran against the Iraq War, just months after 9/11. But she felt it important to speak out, knowing it could cost her the election. She also ran on a reform-minded health care platform, guaranteeing she'd be a target of the pharmaceutical lobby - especially since, as Maine's Majority Leader, she had lead bus trips into Canada to help residents buy inexpensive prescription drugs there.

She's a person who's generally been ahead of the curve, but as solid, grounded a Down Easter as they come. Yet her best attribute, as the article explained, was her decency as a person.

Fortunately, there was life after losing, and Chellie Pingree was made president and CEO of Common Cause, where she kept up their high standards working for reform and the public good.

Although the article was about a good person "in government," it's true that Chellie Pingree was not an elected official. However, she had been, and she was nonetheless working in the service of government. Regardless, I ended the piece by writing -

"I have no idea if Chellie Pingree will run for political office again. Or be appointed to some post. Or continue with Common Cause, or elsewhere. But as I look at the mean-spirited, divisive political landscape today and cringe, I only know that whatever she does, we all are served best when people like Chellie Pingree are part of the process."

Well...nine months after that, Chellie Pingree decided to try getting back into elective politics. When Rep. Tom Allen took on the challenge of running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Susan Collins (a race he ultimately didn't win), it left his First District seat open. And Ms. Pingree entered the highly-contested primary.

One of the great difficulties of politics, though, is to attempt a second act. Most people - wisely - don't even try. No matter your credentials, lose once, and it's "thanks for trying before, but...next!"

But some stories have a happy ending.

On Tuesday, Chellie Pingree was elected to the United States House of Representatives. She won by 15 points. Two years ago, she may not have been "officially" in government - but that story is over. She is, once again.

And we're all better for it.

We understandably think of the House Representatives as being about local concerns. But the moment they sit in Washington, their voices and actions impact all of America. And having Chellie Pingree sitting in Washington, all of America has a strong and profoundly decent voice representing it, not just the First District of Maine.

Ms. Pingree remains one of the earliest, most ardent voices against the Iraq War and ending America's involvement there. She not only remains an outspoken proponent of health care reform, but helped pass Maine's law to negotiate for lower prescription drug costs. She doesn't just speak for renewable energy as a popular issue of the day - her college degree is in human ecology. She has long-pushed for campaign finance reform, ethics reform and far more - you don't become the head of Common Cause without having a wide palate to work from. And perhaps just as important, you don't become the Majority Leader of a state senate without having the ability to accomplish your goals.

To be clear, it's just one voice in a sea of voices. But it is a voice that speaks with honor, kindness and fairness as its hallmark.

I don't live in Maine. I'm not represented by Chellie Pingree. I reside 3,000 miles away on the opposite side of the continent. But I'm okay knowing that the country I live in is represented by her. We're all of us now in two, new, good hands.

There was a monumental headline on Election Day. But it's wonderful when you turn the page and can also find that the day signaled a vibrant change on so many different and deep levels. And that among those many, an actual, good person in government beat the odds and returned to government.