In a previous column, Towhall.com highlighted the upset and ascendancy of Republican Larry Hogan to Governor of Maryland.
Today, conservatives frustrated with Washington bickering, pandering, and inaction should look to another governor, in an otherwise overlooked part of the country: Maine’s Paul LePage.
Born into deep poverty in Lewiston Maine, LePage was the first of eighteen children in a traditional Catholic family. His father beat him repeatedly, and the impoverished mother could only look on. Once LePage’s father abused him so thoroughly, Paul ended up in the hospital, where the father attempted to bribe him into lying about his brutal beating. The first handout offered to him, LePage kept it as a memento of where he would never go, and ran away from home. Living on the streets for two years, the young Franco-American got by cleaning stables and shining shoes, then was adopted by two kind adults, who gave him food, shelter, love, and helped him get a good education. With the help of flexible leaders in the state, LePage took his college entrance exam in French, then developed his English.
One of the most plainspoken executives in the country, LePage typifies the pit-to-the-palace storytelling which defines this country. From his renewed upbringing to his education in the private sector, managing stores in a grocery chain, plus undergraduate and masters’ degrees in business, with the economic successes to prove his fiscal acumen, LePage took his wealth of experience to local government, first to the city council, then mayor of Waterville. Why does the Maine governor’s wretched rags-to-riches story feature so highly in his political legacy? LePage has been a tireless welfare and education reformer, never afraid to fight, unafraid to speak his mind, pushing opportunity rather than entitlement.
In the watershed year 2010, the Tea Party Revolt swept limited government, constitutional conservatives into power not just in Congress, but throughout the fifty states, including Maine, an otherwise liberal bastion trending left since 2000, with former Governor Angus King switching to liberal Independent, and two Moderate (read: compromising) Republican US Senators.
Despite LePage’s plurality of support in two elections, Maine’s voting electorate has warmed up to his heated rhetoric and his passion to expand opportunity and prosperity. About his rhetoric: LePage has sparred with the press a number of times, and won. Both controversial as well as captivating from his first gubernatorial bid to the present day, LePage has his say, regardless of what anyone may think.
During his first campaign, he brazenly informed enthusiastic supporters:
And as your governor, you're going to see a lot of me in the front pages saying: "Governor LePage tells Obama to go to hell!"
He has glibly cursed at reporters and their gotcha questions, and he frankly declared in a debate forum how he would respond to President Obama, if he wanted to help Maine:
More Americans are thinking: President Obama, get out of the White House. In Maine, voters are chanting: “Got out off of welfare and get a job!”
When battling over balanced budgets,
“I was a Democrat, until I learned to count.”
Why is LePage so successful, even in this seemingly blue state? He echoes the frustration of Middle America, not just the Mainers muddled in high taxes and low employment, and he has not abandoned his mission or his message, even when he lost control of both houses of the Maine legislature after 2012.
Even though MSNBC has mocked him, the Economist has vetted him in a not-so-kind light, and even though fellow Mainer and horror writer Steven King has fought with him, Mainers keeping voting for him, and conservatives across the country should love him.
Andrew Breitbart contended that politics flows downwind from culture. LePage is proving that culture can be shaped by the right politics. Leading the fight for Right To Work, he rejected the Medicaid expansion, reminding his Democratic colleagues that they will have to foot the larger bill in the long-term, repeating the same “fools bet” cautioned offered by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Not just backing away from the Obamacare Kool-Aid, Maine Democrats have caved and now honor, support, and promote the welfare reforms long sought by Governor LePage. While Republicans leaders in Washington DC frustrate the will of the majority, and abandon conservative principles on key issues, in Maine a rock-steady conservative Republican has never wavered from helping his constituents from dependence to self-determination, from poverty to prosperity.
He is changing the discussion, and the opposition is forced to go along.
That’ the picture of real leadership, and no matter how upsetting and discouraging Republicans activists may feel across the country right now (Executive amnesty; Loretta Lynch), governors like Paul LePage are pushing back against Big Government, demanding respect for individual liberty, state sovereignty, and constitutional governance in line with enumerated powers.
And for anyone who has a problem with that, just take one of Governor LePage’s finest lines, his retort to the Maine NAACP, when they accused him of a pattern of racism: