Why legislators need to at least censure Governor LePage

So Mike Tipping thinks Rep. Ken Fredette is an enabler when it comes to our governor’s outrageous behavior. I can’t say I disagree.

As the debate about the appropriate response to Governor LePage’s infamous voicemail for Rep. Drew Gattine along with his racially charged discourse about drug trafficking waged on this week, I had similar thoughts.


Rep. Drew Gattine speaking about the threatening voicemail Gov. Paul LePage left him.  BDN file photo

Rep. Drew Gattine speaking about the threatening voicemail Gov. Paul LePage left him. BDN file photo

I emphasized the along with because some, like Fredette, want to single out the voicemail as an isolated problem. Others, like myself, see the voicemail as a new, disturbing low on a long continuum of problematic disruptions including, but not limited to the voicemail and his racially charged statements. These disruptions distract citizens and elected officials, alike, creating divisiveness at a time when consensus building is desperately needed to resolve any number of critical issues challenging our state.

These disruptions trouble people’s sensibilities and contribute to a toxic climate. If you don’t believe me, just peruse the comment sections after any of the articles about LePage in the Bangor Daily News since this controversy erupted.

I’ve been arguing that the legislature should have censured LePage for his language a while ago. The Boston Globe referred to LePage as the George Wallace of New England — I started calling him the George Wallace of Maine months ago.  Censure would be a way to let the national and international communities know that Mainers don’t support LePage’s extreme conduct.

It’s totally fine that his allies in the legislature want to continue to support his policies. It’s troubling that his allies seem to think condoning his behavior is a necessary part of supporting his policies. Censure is the political version of setting a boundary — clearly communicating to someone that there are limits to what behavior will be tolerated — which brings me back to Tipping referring to Fredette as an enabler.

I’ve been thinking this whole situation is a giant freebie for all the professors out there who get tired of giving the same PSYCH 101 lectures each fall. This year they could have some fun and change things up a bit. One could suggest that our elected officials may be exemplifying any number of basic psych terms, like enabler or boundary.

I can almost imagine a test question:

Which situation best exemplifies denial?

a.  Governor LePage saying some “spiritual guidance” is sufficient for whatever issue would cause him to leave such an inexcusably uncivilized voicemail for a fellow elected official because “he was so angry he couldn’t breathe”

b.  Governor LePage proving he doesn’t use racially charged language by declaring blacks and Hispanics to be the enemy

c.  House Republicans suggesting the negative press attention and subsequent apology for the voicemail are sufficient corrective action for LePage to take

d.  Any citizen/politician not able to see his continued and escalating conduct as a giant stain on the Maine brand when we need the Maine brand to be stronger than ever

e.  All of the above

Other terms like, codependent, , ultimatim, anger management, and behavioral health also come to mind. I could probably come up with more if I really thought about it. The English major in me thinks the whole thing has a Shakespearean feel to it, too.

Possible blue book essay question:  Can parallels be drawn between Governor LePage and any of the leading characters in Shakespeare’s historic tragedies?  Please use three examples whether arguing to the affirmative or the negative.

The problem is we need our elected officials to be more than just freshman core fodder. A year into blogging and already I feel redundant talking about critical issues like the addiction epidemic, increasing food insecurity numbers, increasing childhood poverty numbers, a broken mental health system, etc.

We have a troubled economy in dire need of statewide diversification and paradigm shifting. We have an aging population in need of infrastructure that supports an aging population and youth to support and service that infrastructure. Our state faces so many pressing challenges the entire list would be a blog post in and of itself.

Overcoming these challenges will require leadership that can be something other than a case study in dysfunction. Censure would send the clear message that unacceptable behavior that detracts from the people’s business will not be tolerated. The governor accepting being censured without further outbursts would send a clear message that he is truly contrite and ready to get back to the people’s business.

In psychological/recovery terms, a censure process would be a good first step.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.