Who’s to Blame for Maine Governor Paul LePage? No Lables, That’s Who

How bad are the Republican governors first elected in 2010? They’re so bad that when people think of the crazy extremists, their first or second thought seldom goes to Kansas governor Sam Brownback. That’s bad. So, the competition is tough, but Maine governor Paul LePage has to be in the running for worst new Republican governor. He’s told the Maine NAACP to “kiss my butt” and his wife’s a tax cheat. He’s not even trying to avoid charges of nepotism; he’s put his 22 year old daughter on the state payroll at $41,000 AND she lives with him and his wife in the governor’s mansion, meaning the taxpayers are subsidizing her rent, utilities, food and other living expenses. (Remember, LePage is running government like a business…which I guess means he thinks CEO’s should pursue rapacious self-enrichment at the expense of the employees and shareholders.)  And, of course, there’s the mural.

Why did Maine elect someone as bad as Paul LePage? Its Republican Senators have somewhat undeserved reputations as “moderates,” but they don’t run around, as LePage has, saying that they expect to tell Barack Obama to go to hell. Maine has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1992. Maine doesn’t have a history of electing extremists. But a glance at its recent gubernatorial elections suggests it was only a matter of time before it did:

Year Winner Party Percentage
1986 John McKernan Republican 39.90%
1990 John McKernan Republican 46.70%
1994 Angus King Independent 35.37%
1998 Angus King Independent 58.61%
2002 John Baldacci Democrat 47.15%
2006 John Baldacci Democrat 38.11%
2010 Paul LePage Republican 38.33%

It’s not uncommon for a president to win with less than 50% of the vote, but since 1860 no president won with less than 40% of the popular vote. In Maine, however, the governor now regularly wins with less than 40% of the vote. And it’s not only because there’s an independent on the ballot; in 2010 LePage was aided by the presence of THREE independents who collectively took almost 43%.

Maine’s governor makes only $70,000 per year, the lowest governor’s salary in the nation. Not paying their governor much probably doesn’t help attract the highest quality candidates. But the real problem in Maine appears to be the breakdown of the two-party system, in particular Democrats running as independents and liberals splitting their votes among multiple candidates while the conservatives stick with the Republican. For instance, in 2006 incumbent Democrat John Baldacci won with only 38% of the vote. The Republican only got 30%, but a former Democrat running as an independent garnered 21% and a Green Party candidate took almost 10%. And in 2010, a former staffer for Jimmy Carter and Democratic senator Edmund Muskie named Eliot Cutler ran as an independent and pulled over 36% of the vote. The combined vote of the Democratic nominee and the Democrat who ran as an independent was 55%. Had the Democrats not split their votes, few outside Maine would have ever heard of Paul LePage.

What happened in Maine may be a quirk of it’s local political culture. But if some weenie Democrats have their way, we could have lots of Paul LePages running around our statehouses, Congress and maybe even the White House. Who are these weenie Democrats? The weenies at No Lables.

Why does No Lables exist? It’s pretty clear they’re not going to have any significant success electing people. In fact, it appears to be a collection of people who’ve mostly lost elections or can no longer get high-profile jobs. There are some Republicans unwilling to hang out with the extremists,, nativists, mouth breathers, theocrats and suckers as the Kochtopus teat that now dominate the Republican party. But a good chunk of the people with No Lables are socially liberal elites who think their shit don’t stink and who won’t be in a party that looks out for those they think have stinky shit.

What happens when liberal-leaning elites like Eliot Cutler leave the Democratic party and split the electorate? To them personally, not much; they get to cavort with fellow losers like the guy who used to get engaged whenever he had a Republican primary coming up. But after they saunter off and reflect on how they lost because the electorate included too few people whose shit don’t stink, the rest of us have to deal with assholes like Paul LePage and their crony politics, destructive policies, and shit-dumping on working people.

The No Lables types think our political problems can be solved by avoiding partisanship and conflict. When facing a committed tea partier Republican base, that’s a dangerous delusion. By trying to convince people that we can have politics devoid of rancor and uncomfortable choices, the No Lables people and those attracted to their flaccid politics aren’t making anything better, they’re just making our political problems worse. And worst of all, since they’re mostly comfortable elites, they won’t bear the costs of their delusions.

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2 Responses to Who’s to Blame for Maine Governor Paul LePage? No Lables, That’s Who

  1. Allison F says:

    Another element that paved the way for LePage’s win was early voting. My entire extended family voted early and for the Democrat, and in the 11th hour (days after early voting started), Cutler pulled up evenly in the polls to LePage and the Dem Mitchell sunk like a stone. After the election my Dem relatives to a person said they would have voted for Cutler had they waited until Election Day. The whole “Independent” label feels meaningless in this state, as if it’s only used to attract Liberal minded people who feel to Mavericky to self ID as a Democrat.

  2. Dana Houle says:

    Yeah, the “mavericky” thing is like the brain-chemistry thing that gets exploited by drug dealers. Drug dealers give a kid some cheap smack knowing that their brain chemistry will keep them coming back. The No Labels-types appeal to maverickyness to lure people who think of themselves as not beholden to the two-party system, people who think for themselves, yada yada yada. The problem, of course, is that there are more pod-people on the right than there are either mavericky people or, in a lot of places, steadfast Democrats. Combined they outnumber the tea partiers, but when they split, it gives the Repubs their paths to victory.

    And while it’s maybe the most extreme case, Maine’s not unique in this. In Minnesota, the winning percentage in the last four governors races have been 37%, 44%, 46% and 43%.

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