Today in the Maine House of Representatives was a somber and historic day. We considered articles calling for an investigation toward possible impeachment of Gov. Paul LePage. This effort was the result of alleged abuses of power, which perhaps individually might be only shocking, but taken together show a pattern of behavior that I believe threatens our democracy. I supported this effort. I am sad to say it failed, but at least some of us took a stand, and issues that have festered in the back halls of Augusta have finally seen the light of day.
This is not the kind of history I went to Augusta to make. Even as late as last week, I believed that if I just went to the State House every day, kept focused on the important issues, such as jobs and the economy, education, the pressing epidemic of heroin addiction, to mention just a few, and worked with my colleagues on all sides of the political spectrum, important work could still get done.
I thought that a discussion such as the one we had today would only distract, only divide, only feed the public’s cynicism about what ‘politicians’ care about and do with our time.
But just a few days ago a public comment from our governor that echoed around the nation acted like a glass of cold water in my face. The governor’s outrageous, racist statements have done irreparable damage to our state’s reputation. What kind of businesses would seek to come here now? How will such comments bring young people to live here?
Remarks that elicit the praise of white supremacist groups would never be tolerated in the world of business. In fact, they would never be tolerated in any place where civility is expected and individuals are held accountable for their words, words that create an unwelcoming and perhaps even dangerous climate for individuals of color or other minorities in our state.
Fear, intimidation, threats and retribution are not ways to govern. They are not “the way it’s always done.” These are the hallmarks of the kind of bullying behavior we rightly will not tolerate among the children and youth in our state’s schools. It’s time we in Augusta set an example.
The Maine Constitution gives sole authority to impeach a person in state public office to the House of Representatives. Our framers had to provide an avenue of redress for instances such as this because history had shown them — and indeed has provided examples since — that too much power centered on one individual provides potential for abuse. They knew that this would have to be addressed in order to protect the process of good government and the needs of the people, in whose ultimate hands all power in a democracy rests.
I believe that no other work we might try to accomplish in Augusta is as important as safeguarding the integrity of our democratic system established by our state’s Constitution. Yes, what we discussed in the Maine House chamber today is historic and could be the most critical work facing the 127th Legislature.
I find it sad that we, the members of the Legislature given this sole authority by our Constitution to investigate and potentially hold accountable these alleged misuses of power by the holder of our state’s highest office, refused to act on the most pressing concern to come before us.
Meanwhile, members of our citizen legislature, other public servants and even worse, private citizens, fear to vote or speak their minds in dread of retribution.
If these fears are unfounded then this investigation could have proven it to put their minds at ease.
If the investigation substantiated these or other allegations, we should have, for the good of our people and the future of our democracy, put it to the test.
I am sad. I’ve tried hard to take the high road and pride myself in maintaining civility. I believe that until we face this issue head on, we will not be able to get our work done.
No, this is not the kind of history I went to Augusta to make. I simply believe we had no choice.
Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, is serving her second term in the Maine House. She serves on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.