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As Gov. Janet Mills has led Maine through the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic chaos that it has caused, there have been plenty of questions about her strategy — including her administration’s vaccination plans, business restrictions and mask mandates.
The proof, however, is in the results. Aided by geography and relatively low population density, “Maine has weathered the virus better than virtually everywhere else in America,” as the Bangor Daily News reported over the weekend.
Maine “ranks third among states in per capita cases behind Vermont and Hawaii. While 3 of every 2,000 Americans alive at the start of the pandemic died from COVID-19, that ratio is 1 of 2,000 in Maine,” the BDN article said.
Throughout the course of the year, Maine has seen lawsuits, protests and attacks on Mills over her decision-making, including from former President Donald Trump. Through it all, the Maine Republican Party has been right in the middle of mayhem.
Last week when the Legislature met in person, Republicans made a push to strip Mills of her ability to use her emergency authority to protect the state from COVID-19 and continue to push for a say in how state dollars from the American Rescue Plan should be used to help Maine’s economy recover.
Too many Republicans in the state — not all, but way too many — simply can’t be trusted to negotiate in good faith or to put science before ideology when it comes to COVID-19.
Over the course of the past year, one question that came up time and time again when I’ve been talking about the Mills administration’s response to COVID-19 has been: “Can you imagine what would have happened if Paul LePage had been governor?”
It’s a scary thought exercise.
But I think we know exactly what would have happened. The governor, following the lead of then-President Trump, would have bungled the response. More Mainers would have gotten sick; more would have died.
A report from the Lancet examining Trump’s response to the coronavirus found that 40 percent of deaths in the United States could have been avoided if the president had developed a coherent national strategy for handling the pandemic, advocated for masks and had not denied the seriousness of the threat.
But for the efforts of governors, like Mills in Maine, Chris Sununu in New Hampshire and Phil Scott in Vermont, northern New England may well have faced the same dire outcomes as some of our neighboring states.
The thought exercise isn’t just speculative. LePage joined Trump at an event in Maine, where Mills was attacked for her thoughtful COVID-19 plans.
And history shows us that LePage — empowered by his allies in the Maine House of Representatives — doesn’t trust or follow science.
From his complete mishandling and irrational reaction to a nurse who DID NOT have Ebola to his denial of science to his willingness to simply ignore the law and to undermine public health, LePage showed us during his time in office just how bad things would have been.
All I can say is thank goodness Mills was governor when COVID-19 hit.
Now Republicans, who have sued the governor and joined in the anti-mask protests and plastered their cars with hateful bumper stickers about the governor and whose national counterparts — en mass — voted against the American Rescue Plan, want a say?
If one of your priorities is to attack transgender students and deny them a chance to play school sports, then I don’t trust you to make good decisions. If your economic ideas start and end with tax cuts (especially for big corporations) and sticking a few million dollars into the state’s reserve accounts during a crisis, I don’t believe you’re up to the task of governing.
As far as I’m concerned, most Republicans just haven’t shown that they are serious enough about good public policy — or winning elections — to be allowed to gum up the works when Maine people need help.