Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Elephant Dung #25: Maine Republicans slam Republican Gov. Paul LePage

Tracking the GOP Civil War

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(For an explanation of this ongoing series, see here. For previous entries, see here.)

I wrote last year about "Mainesanity," the takeover of Maine's state GOP by Tea Party wackos. And by that I don't mean your run-of-the-mill small-government Teabaggers, the sort who are extreme but not utterly insane, or not necessarily so, but rather... well, wackos. As Maine Politics explained at the time:

The official platform for the Republican Party of Maine is now a mix of right-wing fringe policies, libertarian buzzwords and outright conspiracy theories.

The document calls for the elimination of the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve, demands an investigation of "collusion between government and industry in the global warming myth," suggests the adoption of "Austrian Economics," declares that "'Freedom of Religion' does not mean 'freedom from religion'" (which I guess makes atheism illegal), insists that "healthcare is not a right," calls for the abrogation of the "UN Treaty on Rights of the Child" and the "Law Of The Sea Treaty" and declares that we must resist "efforts to create a one world government." 

This was extreme even by Republican standards.

November 2010 witnessed yet more "Mainesanity" with the election of Tea Party Republican Paul LePage as governor. (It was a narrow win. LePage squeaked by an independent candidate and won with just 38 percent of the vote.) He proved to be a pretty nasty character during the campaign and has done nothing since then to indicate that he's anything but a right-wing extremist who rode the Tea Party wave, got lucky with a split vote, and somehow got himself elected in a state where leading state-wide Republicans typically resemble Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, not, well, Paul LePage.

And like certain other Republican governors -- Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio come to mind -- he's made labor unions (and working people generally) one of his primary targets. But that isn't going over all that well in Maine, including among Maine Republicans, some of whom (presumably not the ones who wrote that platform) are pushing back:

Eight Republican state senators have issued a rare public rebuke of Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), writing an op-ed expressing "discomfort and dismay" with some of his recent comments directed at labor backers.

The controversy centers around LePage's recent decision to order a mural depicting the state's workers' history removed from the Department of Labor, arguing that it was biased against businesses and employers. When asked how he would react if protesters carried out their plan to form a human chain around the mural, LePage replied, "I'd laugh at them, the idiots. That's what I would do. Come on! Get over yourselves!"

"But for him to announce that he would 'laugh at the idiots' should they choose to engage in our honored tradition of civil disobedience is another personal attack that only serves to further lower the bar of our public discourse," write the senators in the op-ed, which ran in The Portland Press Herald and the Kennebec Journal. "We may disagree with civil disobedience in this particular instance, but it is a fundamental right each and every one of us might engage in if we found the issue important enough. 


These are "proud Republicans" who "want Gov. LePage and his administration to succeed." They want to see his right-wing policy agenda (lower taxes, less government, etc.) enacted. And their criticism of LePage isn't directed at his opposition to organized labor but at "the tone and spirit of some of the remarks he has made." What they seek to uphold is civil disobedience, the right to dissent, a political culture of dignity and respect, a spirit of civility. While they claim that they "are not the enemy of labor and labor is certainly not an enemy to [them]," it is clear that the rights of workers, and particularly organized workers who bargain collectively, not only isn't their priority but may actually be antithetical to their pro-business ideology.

So is this really dung at all? These Republicans like LePage. They just want him to tone it down and respect their common opponents.

Fair enough, but this is a case of a prominent Tea Party Republican going too far and members of his own party publicly chastising him. And even if these Republicans aren't necessarily pro-labor, and even if they support much of the Tea Party agenda, their call for greater dignity and respect, including towards labor, is very much a rebuke to the politics of extremism and absolutism that characterizes so much of the right these days. 

It's good to see that at least some Republicans have had enough.

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