Politically, Maine was a stronghold of the Federalist Party until 1805, when Federalists backed away from advocating statehood and the new Democratic-Republican Party took up the cause. Maine’s population was growing, bringing in many settlers who favored statehood and became Democratic-Republicans. The party’s successor, the Democratic Party, remained predominant until the national dispute over slavery caused major party realignments in the 1850s.
The Republican Party, which opposed the extension of slavery, came to power just before the Civil War and continued to dominate the state for nearly a century. Several party leaders rose to national prominence in the late 19th century. Among these men were James G. Blaine, who served as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1869-1875) and U.S. secretary of state and who ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1884; and Thomas B. Reed, Speaker of the House (1889-1891; 1895-1899).
The Democratic Party made slight inroads during the Great Depression, the economic crisis of the 1930s. In 1932 voters elected a Democratic governor for one term. But Maine was among only six states to vote against Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was elected president in 1932. Roosevelt won three more terms as U.S. president, serving until 1945, but Maine’s voters favored his opponent in every election. The state remained fundamentally conservative and Republican into the 1950s. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine became the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress when she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1948. Her 1950 speech, “Declaration of Conscience,” boldly criticized the tactics of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy in his anti-communist investigations at a time when few dared speak out against him.
While most of the nation enjoyed an economic and population boom during the years following World War II, Maine’s economy faltered and the population declined as people left the state to seek jobs elsewhere.
The loss of defense jobs hurt southern Maine, while out-of-state competition sent the textile industry and agriculture into further decline. The pulp and paper industry alone enjoyed growth. As a result of these economic woes, Maine’s government had limited resources from which to draw, crippling the state’s ability to deliver education, health, and other social services. Consequently, the Republican Party finally began to lose its hold. The election of Democrat Edmund S. Muskie as governor in 1954 and as U.S. senator in 1958 represented the return of two-party politics in Maine. Muskie later was nominated as a Democratic candidate for vice president (1968) and served as secretary of state in 1980 and 1981 under President Jimmy Carter.
Under Muskie’s guidance, job opportunities grew and the state rededicated itself to improving the educational system, but when he attempted to clean up Maine’s rivers, the state’s hydroelectric and paper companies opposed the effort. However, Muskie’s attempts encouraged a grass-roots movement that led eventually to environmental legislation in the 1960s and 1970s. © Written by Emmanuel BUCHOT and Encarta "Maine" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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