The odds we’ll agree on everything are pretty slim

Thank you.

Those two words convey a lot of meaning. And I offered them back to readers of this column back in April 2016. At that point, my wife and I had just welcomed our first child — a son — into the world and I was going to take a little bit of time off my regularly scheduled columns.

Time to do so again.

This past week, we’ve welcomed our second — a girl this time! — and confronted head-on the chaos of having two under 2. It has been wonderful.

While we’re doing our part to try and lower Maine’s median age, the question arises, what state will our children grow up in? That cuts to the heart of debates on politics and policy that fill these pages, be they on newsprint or a server.

So I want to say “thank you” to those who read these pieces, whether weekly or just on occasion. Doubly so if you do not generally ascribe to a right-leaning worldview. For those who have sent along a note over the years, I appreciate it. But there are a few thoughts I would like to offer, without the time pressures of writing about fleeting federal shutdowns, wind power, or municipal officials.

For those who presume my beliefs, generally starting their argument with something like, “you Republicans…” — please stop. While stereotypes can sometimes appropriately explain high-level aspects of large populations, individuals cannot be reduced to caricatures based upon their affiliations. I did the math before, and I’ll do it again.

If you assume there are only 20 policy matters in the world, and further assume there are only two choices — “yes” or “no” — for each, then the likelihood that any two individuals would perfectly agree on everything is 2 to the 20th power, or over 1 in a million. Add a third choice — “maybe” — and the odds jump to 1 in 3.5-billion. With more nuance and four choices, like “none,” “a little,” “a lot,” “all”? Over 1 in a trillion.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi listen to President Donald Trump during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring former Sen. Bob Dole on Capitol Hill on Jan. 17. Evan Vucci | AP

The simple reality is that there are hundreds of policy choices inhabiting the public square, each with myriad different potential answers. Boiling it down to “you Republicans” degrades debate and critical thinking. For example, the estate tax, as currently constructed, is poor policy that wealthy people — given enough time — plan around. But the original intent underlying it, like discouraging the creation of a class of “idle rich,” is probably worthwhile and workable in a real reform of the federal tax code.

Yet that nuance doesn’t fit neatly into platitudes about “1%ers!,” “Repuglicans,” and other nonsense. There are innumerable other areas where there are likely large areas of agreement on the goal; the differences come on how to best achieve them.

In a way, it is a lot like raising children. You can find countless different suggestions on how to best bring them up: diet, discipline, education, et cetera. But everyone has the same goal: happy, healthy kids who grow into productive members of society, with good heads on their shoulders.

And, realistically, for all our challenges, Maine is a great place to achieve that goal. War and terrorism are not ravaging our towns, while children — boys and girls alike — across the state can attend school without fear of repercussions. We have some of the lowest crime rates in the nation, along with abundant clean water. When you compare our state to the world as a whole, things are pretty darn good.

But don’t settle; let’s fight and debate on how we can make it better. Disagree on ideas without demonizing the other person. And maybe take some time to consider the position of those with whom you do not see eye-to-eye. At the very least, you might find yourself more confident in your own conclusions.

So “thank you” for reading. And whether you think my columns are brilliant or boneheaded, I’m taking a few weeks off. Lowering Maine’s median age takes work!

Michael Cianchette

About Michael Cianchette

Michael Cianchette was the chief counsel to Gov. Paul LePage from 2012-2013 and deputy counsel from 2011-2012. A Navy reservist, he was deployed to Afghanistan from 2013-2014 as a trainer and adviser to the Afghan National Police. He is an alumnus of the Leadership Maine program and holds a BA in economics and political science from Boston College along with a JD and an MBA from Suffolk University. He works as in-house counsel and financial manager for a number of affiliated companies in southern Maine.