SAN DIEGO — What a spectacle last week with the GOP-a-mania event starring one “really, really rich” guy and nine other guys all pandering to a rabid electorate more interested in the base gratification of super-amped emotion over the hard truths and needed action that demand personal and collective sacrifice.
To say that the Republican presidential primary debate was a train wreck is an insult to Amtrak, and to compare it to a demolition derby would bring shame to every junk car in America.
In fact, if not for the small detail that the 10 prime-time GOP candidates were all vying to ascend to the role of “Leader of the Free World,” then last week’s show could be dismissed as just another mind-numbing reality program.
But sadly, it wasn’t.
What fascinates me most about The Donald is his unwavering clarity of purpose. Like an angry predator shark programmed over millions of years of evolution, coupled with an absolute lack of shame, class or empathy, the Donald/Shark does its damage with zero remorse, while running the myopic operating system of “getting things done.”
Not with critical thought, not with human compassion, not with context, and not with logic – just with linear impulse to get things done.
Another member of the same fish family: Gov. Paul LePage. To do and say so many insulting and generally awful things in 2010 on the campaign trail and then get elected was an unbelievable accomplishment. Really amazing. For most of us mortals, if we said those same things and/or acted in the same boorish manner during a job interview, how many of us would get hired, or in his case, elected?
For LePage to get re-elected last year was beyond amazing; it’s almost magical in that if feels like an illusion. In a state with approximately 1.3 million people, how did our constitutional tribe of neighbors and friends come to the electoral conclusion that Paul LePage should be our leader for another torturous four years?
A day after the GOP mud-wrestling match last week, Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously against LePage in his dispute with the Legislature over his non-veto, wanted-to-veto, couldn’t-veto-due-to-a-missed-deadline disagreement over 65 bills that ultimately all became law, despite his five-year tantrum and disguised attempt to paralyze our state government.
In any other political universe, during any other period of history, LePage’s mistake would be viewed with scorn and an appropriately high level of “is he out of his mind?” Not only was he blatantly attempting to derail the legislative process by punitively vetoing 65 bills purely out of political spite, but he even failed at that thanks to his clumsy and misguided interpretation of the state Constitution.
It’s almost breathtaking to see how the LePage/Shark doesn’t even slow down for setbacks that would shame most others. Like the Donald/Shark, he/it just swims along to the next embarrassment or scandal, with not even a nod to the pain or destruction caused.
And for the 48 percent of Maine voters who supported LePage in last year’s election, they’re seemingly locked in a permanent shrug that says, “Oh, that’s just LePage fighting to get things done.” For the rest of us, last week’s wasted expense, wasted time and wasted emotion was just another sad, soul-crushing and desensitizing example of LePage’s destructive reign of gubernatorial terror.
That unflinching commitment to crazy is why I lump Donald Trump and Paul LePage together. It’s not that they’re good leaders; they’re not. It’s not that either of them possess great wisdom or insight that holds value for any of us; they don’t. And it’s not that either of them should be applauded for their mean and sadistic approach to human interactions; they shouldn’t.
Donald/Shark and LePage/Shark are both bottom-feeders representing the same strain of disease in our country and our great state of Maine: TPAA, or toxic political anger and angst.
In truth, neither of these shallow and sad men are originators or “projectors” of the TPAA disease, but instead, they are merely “reflectors” of our own flaws and fears as a society.
We don’t need Trump and LePage for what they can do for us, because they offer nothing but fear, anger and boorishness under the clumsy and false promise of “getting things done.” Instead, we need Trump and LePage for the mirrors they provide to each of us as members of a society that needs to rely upon each other more, not less.
As I travel I’m asked all the time about “Maine’s crazy governor” and it’s clear that the image of our state has suffered under LePage. And around the world billions of people see Trump, the leading GOP presidential candidate, as representing an aspect of America that is both bizarre and scary.
Being the leader of a state is not an exercise in anger management, and being the American president shouldn’t sink to the level of a reality show. We as voters and citizens need to own some measure of responsibility for today’s dysfunctional political climate. There is too much at stake to blame the clowns if we’re the ones who have created the circus.