The older you get the more fleeting the present. It’s frightening how fast eight years of Paul LePage went by.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I joined hundreds of others in Augusta to protest one of LePage’s first boneheaded moves: ordering the removal in 2011 of the mural in the Maine Labor Department because it was too pro-labor. Eight years and dozens of mean and stupid incidents later, LePage is finally out of office.
Whatever tax benefits Maine may have derived from eight years of LePage (and I’m not convinced there are any) were more than offset by the investments lost, the economy stalled, the environment despoiled, the reputation for decency and common sense sullied, the constant national embarrassments and the suffering inflicted on the poor, minorities and immigrants.
LePage’s record is a record of failure. First and foremost, he failed to set a good example for Maine’s people, especially its children. His abusive personality, disrespectful manner and foul mouth poisoned the civic life of Maine.
By destroying the Department of Health and Human Services and refusing to expand Medicaid, even after the people of Maine and the state Legislature voted to do so, LePage failed to protect Maine’s children and to provide health care to Mainers in need.
Because of his opposition to sustainable energy, LePage failed to invest in the future, driving away millions of dollars in wind power projects. And because he views addiction as a moral failure rather than an illness, LePage failed to adequately respond to the opioid crisis.
Ultimately, LePage failed to lead. A leader articulates a course of action that inspires others to work to accomplish those goals by collaboration, compromise and consensus. Like his hero Donald Trump, LePage was a bully and boss who ruled by insult and intimidation.
LePage was no more the governor of all the Maine people than Trump is the president of all the American people. LePage and Trump are not the kind of men who can unite people behind their visions. They simply cater to hardcore supporters and ignore everyone else.
“I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump was popular,” LePage famously bragged. If by that he meant he is a narrow-minded, mean-spirited egomaniac, he’s correct.
But if LePage thinks Trump is popular, he’s wrong. Trump’s 39 percent approval rating makes him the least popular president since World War II. LePage’s own 41 percent approval rating makes him, in turn, one of the five least popular governors in the country.
“You’ll miss me when I’m gone,” LePage warned recently, sounding like a man who knows he won’t be missed. He has also threatened to run again if he doesn’t like what Gov. Janet Mills does. For the record, he won’t like what Mills does to repair the damage he’s done.
Listening to Portland school girls Shy Paca, 11, and Natalia Mbadu, 10, belting out “Girl on Fire” at the Mills inauguration brought tears to my eyes. It told me Maine has a bright, beautiful future. We just need women and children to lead us to it, not angry, self-important old men like LePage and Trump.
As to Paul LePage’s political future, if any, I’m guessing he might end up in Washington. With Trump scraping the bottom of the barrel to find people willing to work for him, don’t be surprised if LePage turns up as a butt-kisser in some department where he will draw a fat check and continue his failure to serve the American people.
Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.