When journalist Sasha Abramsky was in Maine earlier this year researching an article about Paul LePage for The Nation, I had a cup of coffee with him out in Westbrook, where he was also interviewing Drew Gattine, one of LePage’s most high-profile victims.
Gattine, now chair of the Maine Democratic Party, was a member of the state Legislature when he accused then-Gov. LePage of being a racist and was subjected to a profanity-laden telephone message in which the governor called Gattine a “socialist c*#@sucker” and challenged him to a duel, promising to shoot Gattine between the eyes “because he is a snot-nosed little runt.”
What Abramsky’s “Paul LePage is Back!” story did in the May 31 issue of the venerable bi-weekly journal of progressive politics and culture was tell the rest of the country what we in Maine know all too well: Paul LePage is an abusive bully. In fact, one of the things I am quoted in the article saying about LePage is, “He grew up abused by his father, and he abuses everybody.”
Abramsky interviewed progressive folks such as Gattine, Senate President Troy Jackson, Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau, Mike Tipping of the Maine People’s Alliance, Robyn Merrill of Maine Equal Justice Partners, and Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, as well as former U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and a handful of LePage supporters in northern Maine for his article. Until I read it, I had almost forgotten how much I dislike LePage.
It was not only a constant embarrassment to have LePage in office for eight years, it was painful. Mainers have a reputation for being decent, moderate, hard-working folks, and LePage pretty much single-handedly destroyed that image with his boorish, belligerent behavior.
Mainers disliked LePage so intensely, in fact, that we instituted ranked-choice voting in the vain hope of preventing anyone else from winning office without a majority. That worked out about as well (as in not at all) as imposing term limits in 1993 in hope of getting rid of Legislator John Martin. The Eagle Lake Democrat has been bouncing back and forth between the House and the Senate ever since.
I suppose now we need to consider imposing not just the existing consecutive term limits but total term limits. LePage should not be allowed to run for a third term.
Make no mistake about it, Maine people suffered because LePage was governor. The poor, the sick, the uninsured, minorities, children, women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community all shared the pain of a LePage governorship. And in The Nation article, former state Sen. Chloe Maxmin, author of “Dirt Road Revival: How to Rebuild Rural Politics and Why Our Future Depends On It,” warns that a LePage win in November would be as bad as a Trump win, “completely decimating all government services … for people who need them the most.”
LePage is living proof that tough love is not love at all. It’s just sheer meanness, plain and ugly.
The only thing worse than the prospect of LePage and Trump returning to office is knowing that there are Maine voters who actually want to be ruled by bullies. That authoritarian disease in the American body politic has killed the Republican Party and it will destroy our democracy if we elect leaders like Trump and LePage.
Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.