Now that the Legislature has adjourned for the year, it would be easy to look back and remember this year for the gaffe-ridden, scandal-rocked three-ring circus that defined the LePage Administration. It got so bad that even prominent members of Gov. Paul LePage’s own Party took to the newspapers to distance themselves from his behavior.
But, as fascinating and revealing as the sideshow was, the more important story of the last six months is much more substantive. The simple fact is that last November Mainers voted for change — a change they hoped would translate into a more stable and prosperous Maine. The Republican clarion call of tax cuts and deregulation finally blossomed into votes. And, even as LePage spiraled out of control, his team insisted that the administration “has a laser focus on job creation.”
A laser focus.
For all the controversies that will haunt the LePage Republicans as 2012 approaches, it is these three words that truly highlight the reason this GOP regime needs to be replaced.
Mainers are desperately yearning for leadership that addresses real-world, kitchen-table challenges that people face every day. The LePage Republicans had a golden opportunity to put a stranglehold on the message of economic development. A laser focus on jobs was within their reach.
However, they squandered this opportunity. Instead of shunning the partisan demands of the far right wing to chart a course of sensible policy, they allowed this session to become a vehicle for unleashing a generation of pent-up Republican frustration. Rather than a “laser focus” on jobs, Maine was treated to a buckshot assault on political adversaries and long-settled policy debates.
Hyperbole? Look at the record.
The LePage Republicans proposed: crippling the state employee’s union; rolling back child labor protections; preventing business owners from setting their own firearms policy; eliminating same-day voter registration; eliminating Clean Elections; taxing Maine people to support health insurance companies; rolling back consumer protections on prescription drugs; lifting the ban on billboards; allowing dangerous chemicals back into kids’ sippy cups; cutting taxes for millionaires; repealing 30 years of environmental policy; allowing guns in the State House; and cutting funding for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. This is not an exhaustive list, merely highlights.
Of course, not all of these ideas became law, as the Democratic Party and legions of Maine citizens joined together to insist on some common sense. Week after week, hundreds of Mainers, outraged by the weekly attacks on Maine values, packed the State House in hopes of their voices being heard.
Sometime they were. Many times they weren’t.
But make no mistake, more of this extreme conservative agenda is lying in wait for the next legislative session — and there is no indication that the “laser focus” on jobs that Mainers are looking for is part of that plan. The Democratic Party is ready to move forward with policy that puts people to work, but it’s now clear that the LePage Republicans have a different agenda.
The people of Maine did not trust the Maine GOP to run this state for more than 40 years. In just six months, we were all reminded why.
Ben Grant is chairman of the Maine Democratic Party.