Thursday, February 9, 2012


Our governor was elected by a plurality rather than a majority of voters - 38% I think is the figure most commonly cited. There's noting wrong with this; in fact Maine has historically elected its Chief Executive by less than 50% of the votes cast. Voters here have always had an independent mind-set and there is often a challenger to the two party candidates, and Independents have won the office twice since I've been old enough to vote. So our political climate favors election by plurality, and in the past this has worked out quite well.

Previous governors, be they Republican, Democrat or Independent (no Greens yet, but they keep trying) have understood that since they were elected by less than a majority they would have to govern in a way garner support from a broader spectrum of the electorate than just their supporters. And voters, for their part, were willing to get behind him (always "him", so far) and support programs that were reasonable and not overly partisan. Through cooperation and compromise the business of governing got done. This time it's different.

Governor LePage seems not to understand, or not to care, that gaining support of 38% of the electorate does not give him a mandate to do as he pleases and that he is the governor, not a democratically elected dictator. The situation is further complicated by the fact the the 62% who did not vote for him really, really dislike him and his policies. He seems to have a "my way or no way" attitude that is going to make governing very, very difficult - maybe impossible unless he modifies his approach.

Maine, like most states, has a budget problem - we spend more than we have revenue to pay for. Everybody agrees it is a situation that needs to be addressed; nobody but the Tea Party agrees with LePage's proposals as to how this should be accomplished. So far his approach has been to propose cuts to programs, issue ultimatums and threat of veto if they are not passed as proposed, and then bully legislators into submission by showing up at hearings and scolding them for considering alternatives to his proposed cuts, all the while issuing inflammatory news releases to keep his 38% stirred up. This modus operandi has had predictable results.

The governor has alienated almost the entire legislature, including members of his own party who would have liked to support him out of party loyalty, if nothing else. He has pretty much made it impossible for his proposals to receive majority support of a legislature which is controlled by his own party. In fact, he has all but guaranteed that whatever does finally emerge from the law makers will bear no resemblance to what he wanted, and moreover it will probably pass with enough support to ensure that a veto will be over-ridden. And so we may have a budget in spite of the governor, not because of him.

Maybe that's the best case scenario for the State: the governor so alienates the legislature that it moves forward to pass necessary bills without his support or participation. Perhaps the most we can hope for from this governor is that he render himself so completely ineffectual as to be inconsequential to the business of governing. That's just sad.

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