It’s 2016, and Gov. LePage’s outrageousness has become sadly repetitive

It’s 2016, and Gov. LePage’s outrageousness has become sadly repetitive

When I first started writing a column on politics, I figured – this is terribly cynical, but what are you gonna do – that having Paul LePage as the face of right-wing politics would be pretty handy.

Nothing going on in the headlines? No good Supreme Court cases? Local citizenry being exemplary? No problem; the governor will provide. But as I pondered what to write for a New Year’s column, I had a sad moment of clarity: our governor, and the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party for whom he speaks, have been repeating themselves so much that talking about it has started to feel like running in place.

I mean, sure, the Department of Agriculture has threatened sanctions against the Department of Health and Human Services for its “chronically poor performance.” Indeed, Maine’s DHHS now ranks 53rd out of 53 state agencies at providing timely assistance to vulnerable, poor, hungry children. That means that DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew must be trying to do this badly; after all, we were 36th out of 53 states just two years ago. So one has to assume that she’ll take this news as a pat on the back. And, for the governor, this is just more evidence of the success of his brilliant plan to kick our state’s most disadvantaged when they’re down.

Two years ago, the Commissioner received a similar, angry letter from the USDA for violating the civil rights of those who are forced to rely on EBT cards, after all, and the governor and his DHHS has only worked harder since then to drive more and more Maine children into hunger.

At this point it all feels very familiar.

Which is fine for you guys. I mean, you can be consistently outraged, or occasionally outraged, but I have to write new columns, and how many times can I talk about the LePage Administration’s explicit policy of starving out Maine children?

The man is consistent; you have to give him that. From misusing public funds to bullying the poor (the latter usually in fake attempts to correct the former), the governor has read so consistently from the same script for so long that I can’t find news in his news anymore, much less a valedictory look at the opportunity presented by the new year.

This was my frame of mind when I gave up in frustration and turned to the national news. It didn’t help much.

It was in June of this year that I wrote a column in which I mentioned that the Virginia colonial legislature passed a law in 1660 which made it illegal for the killing of a black person by a white one to be considered murder; I was talking at the time about the killings in Charleston. If things didn’t seem to have changed between 1660 and the summer of 2015, they certainly don’t seem different by the dawn of 2016.

I imagine that Timothy Loehmann resented the indignity of pretending that he was afraid of Tamir Rice, the twelve year old child that he shot down in November of 2014, but he knew what he had to say to make it highly unlikely that he would be charged with murder. We need to change the situation that allows for so many of our fellow citizens to be killed with impunity, and the rise of Black Lives Matters suggests change may be starting. But today, looking at the news from Cleveland, I can’t say I feel confident. I hope you do.

I started days ago trying to find a good theme for the start of the new year, some measure of guarded optimism, or at least a message of Sisyphean hopefulness. But I get my material from the news, and as far as the news is concerned, this New Year’s Eve was just one more Groundhog Day.

But hell; it’s a new year. Let’s see what we can do to make things different.

Photo via Andi Parkinson.

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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