The Universal Notebook: Dictatorship by veto

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At what point does substituting your individual will for the collective wisdom of a governing body and the expressed desires of a voting public cross the line from principled stand to abuse of power?

I’d say Gov. Paul LePage crossed that line this legislative session by vetoing a record-shattering 83 bills, most of which passed with bipartisan support, and refusing to issue revenue bonds that Maine voters approved.

What we have here is a dictatorship by veto.

Fortunately, enough Republican legislators recognized how wrong the governor was when it came to vetoing the state budget to override it, but the fact that state legislators were only able to override six of the 83 vetoes suggests that some Republicans still believe Paul LePage has a chance of being re-elected in 2014. They changed their votes in order to sustain his vetoes in hopes of hanging onto the Blaine House.

They are wrong.

There is very little chance that Gov. LePage will win re-election. For that to happen you have to believe that Maine is populated by enough angry, self-serving, mean-spirited, foul-mouthed people to thwart the will of the moderate, well-meaning majority of Maine citizens. I don’t believe that.

Most Republicans, at least the ones I know, are not like Paul LePage. They understand that the governor’s conduct in office has been an embarrassment to all Mainers almost from day one.

LePage’s petulant, profane rant about Sen. Troy Jackson being heartless and not using a lubricant when he screws the people of Maine – a rant incited by the override of LePage’s budget veto – was probably the last straw for many people. That’s not refreshing candor. That’s not speaking your mind. That’s an abusive man with anger-management issues.

Looking back over LePage’s disturbing history of verbal abusiveness – from threatening to punch a reporter, promising to tell the president of the United States to “go to hell,” telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt,” to constantly bad-mouthing public schools and school teachers, and his vicious Vaseline tirade – what we are seeing is a pattern of behavior more consistent with that of a mean drunk than a chief executive.

It was a sad day for Maine when we elected a bully to the Blaine House. Other than the well-known fact that he was abused as a child, I have no idea what LePage’s personal problems may be, but we sure don’t need them discoloring the public life of Maine any longer.

There is an ugliness that has crept into American civic life in recent years, an ugliness associated with the rise of conservative talk radio, the tea party, and politicians like LePage.

It used to be that you could disagree on issues without vilifying those with whom you disagreed. It used to be that you could count on the good will of the people we elected to do the public’s business. It used to be that majority ruled. But these tea party conservatives have figured out how to accomplish minority rule. And they don’t seem to care, either here in Maine and down in Washington, who gets hurt by their anti-social obstructionism, as long as it’s not them.

What we are seeing in LePage’s dictatorship by veto is the crippling combination of ignorance and arrogance that has paralyzed this nation. LePage, like his heroes Rand Paul and Scott Walker, doesn’t know much and no one can tell him a darn thing.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.