Instead of trying to win an argument, LePage would rather silence the opposition.
By The Editorial Board
Portland Press Herald editorial
The thousands of people who donate every year to the Natural Resources Council of Maine don’t need Gov. LePage to tell them what the organization does. On issue after issue, the Natural Resources Council provides a statewide voice for environmental issues, and they do it well.
Often, that brings them into conflict with the LePage administration. In a better world, those reasonable differences of opinion on policy would be hashed out in the legislative process and left at that. But in Paul LePage’s Maine, they make you an enemy of the state.
Following through on his promise to wage “a little war” against the state’s largest environmental organization, LePage last month sent a letter, at taxpayer expense, to more than 200 Natural Resources Council donors detailing what he sees as the organization’s advocacy in favor of initiatives that prevent the creation of “good-paying jobs for rural Mainers who are desperate for employment.”
Specifically, he cited the group’s work against mining in Aroostook County and hydroelectricity development throughout the state, and in favor of a national monument in the Katahdin region.
But those efforts will come as no surprise to the people who received the letters, or to the hundreds of others who make up the Natural Resources Council’s membership. In fact, that kind of advocacy is why they give in the first place.
The organization’s donors know exactly where the money is going. It is used to advocate for clean energy, and healthy water, wildlife and forests.
Part of that advocacy involves lobbying in front of the Legislature, where they are almost always on the opposite side of LePage. The governor knows how this works. Individuals and groups with various points of view make their case, and lawmakers vote.
But when LePage loses, he thinks it’s not because too few people bought his argument, it’s because they didn’t hear it correctly.
To him, the Natural Resources Council succeeds not because a lot of Mainers support its mission, but because those supporters don’t understand its true intention, which, in the governor’s delusional view, is to make “rural Maine a national park virtually devoid of human activity or meaningful employment.”
In the governor’s world, there are no honest disagreements that can be sorted out through negotiation and compromise. His views are sincere, and his opinions are indisputable. Opponents – more often “enemies,” in his words – are corrupt, motivated by selfish concerns and disconnected from reality. The only good use of the middle ground between them is as a battlefield.
That’s how LePage sees politics in Maine, and why he is trying so hard to change it. It’s a point of view that allows him to dismiss critics as crooked benefactors of a broken system.
But it’s wrong. Most people have the good of the state at heart even as they engage in the blood sport of politics, yet LePage attacks them so vociferously and frequently that last month’s wasteful, toxic stunt barely registered as out of the ordinary.
There is acrimony, distrust and a reckless disregard for facts in Maine politics, but it’s coming directly from the governor’s office.