Gov. LePage is whining because he failed to deliver for Trump

Gov. LePage is whining because he failed to deliver for Trump

Governor Paul LePage can whine with the best of them, as he proved once more this week, at the state Republican convention and on-line at his Facebook account. Sure, he has also been threatening his “enemies,” promising to carry out a “little war” against such “intimidating,” “scary,” and “rich” non-profit organizations as the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Beacon’s own Maine People’s Alliance, but most of his rage has taken the form of shrill self-pity, and that has been directed at the Ted Cruz for President campaign.

Just a little bit of background: Republicans around the nation are preparing themselves for the possibility that no one will win a majority of votes on the first ballot at their presidential nominating convention this summer. Contested conventions are unpredictable – scary, even – and state parties have been preparing themselves with rules governing what their delegates can do in the event that this once-in-a-generation challenge arises. Maine requires the vast majority of its delegates to the convention to vote on that first ballot according to the results of the state caucuses last month. That means that, on that first ballot, the Maine delegates are pledged in advance – Cruz will have 12 votes, Trump 9, and Kasich 2. But if no one wins a majority, and the convention goes on to more balloting, then all bets are off.

So campaigns have been working to make sure that the delegates to the national convention support their guy, or at least to do some preemptive damage control. Governor LePage, for example, is a Trump supporter, and he attempted to convince the Cruz campaign that Maine should send a “unity ticket” of Republicans that would continue to vote proportionally on all ballots at the convention – Cruz 12, Trump 9, Kasich 2 – no matter what else happens. The Cruz campaign, understandably, wasn’t interested in that deal, and the Governor was not happy.

Writing on Facebook, LePage claimed the deal regarding the delegates had already been agreed to, called Cruz’s Northeast Political Director, David Sawyer, a liar, and said, “Sawyer stabbed us in the back.” He then went on to call the Cruz campaign “greedy political hooligans.” That’s quite a tirade to direct against fellow Republicans at a time of party disunity and general election anxiety! But we’re used to LePage’s tantrums; what makes this one interesting is what it has to say about his, for lack of a better phrase, “governing style.”

The governor suffers from a widely shared misunderstanding of what government is for. Maine’s legislators, and the legislative staff who make their work possible, have done their jobs this session – listening to constituents, crafting legislation to deal with real problems, and forming coalitions and even big bipartisan majorities to do the people’s work. To LePage’s mind, this is why the 127th Legislature was “the worst” in six years. LePage assumes that the legislature exists to do his bidding; when members instead do the work of legislators, he reads that as both a failure of their duty and as an insult. And so he turns to his favorite form of expression, the veto letter.

An overwhelmingly successful bill to aid “cold case” families who have lost loved ones and still not received closure? “Pandering to grieved families,” as though attempting to represent those families were somehow offensive or inappropriate. A successful bill to provide some financial aid to county jails in crisis? A state-funded windfall for greedy local communities. A difficult revision of the state’s solar energy policy, that will provide nearly ten times the amount of solar energy available to us today, and that won bipartisan support in the Senate? “Republicans ought to be ashamed of themselves.”

At a time when the U.S. Congress probably couldn’t agree to get out of a burning building, Maine’s state legislature continues to function, and the governor is deeply aggrieved. Representation, in his view, either takes the form of obedience to the will of the executive or it has failed, and yet the legislature refuses to do the decent thing and die. You know, like Mainers who suffer from opioid addiction. What right have doctors, pharmacists, and legislators to try to keep people alive when the governor has already decided that doing so is merely “perpetuating the cycle of addiction”?

LePage is so enraged at the Cruz campaign because he is supposed to be trying to make something work (the Trump campaign, and the party’s chances in November), and he doesn’t like failing publicly. In order to do his job for the Trump campaign, the governor tried to lobby, to form a coalition, to get something done that he cares about – in other words, he tried to do what people who participate in our political system try to do every day. And he failed. The governor is more comfortable trying to ensure the failure of things, like our state’s economy, or the lives of those in need of help; or at vetoing the results of other people’s hard work. But trying to persuade others, trying to build a future? No, thanks.

The governor is so much more comfortable issuing blame at the graveside.

Photo via Twitter/MaineGOP

About author

Ron Schmidt
Ron Schmidt 45 posts

Dr. Ronald Schmidt is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the Department of History and Political Science at the University of Southern Maine.


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