Liberals in Maine and Washington, D.C. are suffering a new psychological condition, one that started very recently, in November.
Symptoms include denial of reality. Specifically, the wholesale forgetting that liberal politicians and their policy prescriptions were rejected by voters in spectacular fashion.
The denial of reality was on full display during President Obama’s fantastical State of the Union address. And I’m not talking only about his naive allusions to a state of international affairs that exists only in his imagination.
The Commander-in-Chief offered no Bill Clinton-esque pragmatic pivot to the center, just a laundry list of expensive, far-left ideas that have already died. He gave no recognition of the watershed election we just experienced. Even George W. Bush did that. (Bush even complimented incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
A similar psychological condition persists in Maine’s left-of-center minority.
Rather than acknowledge that voters rejected Mike Michaud-style, more-government policies, liberals have outdone themselves with excuses as to why Governor LePage winning more votes than any governor in Maine history is not significant.
Rather than introspectively formulate new policy ideas, they designed new bumper stickers.
The only one who seems to have heard voters’ message is House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick). We know that he at least heard voters because he’s discovered how to talk about something other than Medicaid (emphasis on the talk).
Where once his press releases and speeches focused singularly, almost obsessively on adding more people to the welfare rolls, he and his staff now robotically communicate about “job creation.”
Remember when LePage’s veto of Medicaid expansion (was it his 4th or his 5th?) was upheld, and the unwashed red brigade shouted, “Voters will remember this in November!”
Well, they did.
Eves’ new message — inspired, no doubt, by focus groups and polls, as opposed to, you know, the logic of free market capitalism — seems an odd fit for a cohort that once told us, with straight faces, that adding 100,000 people to Medicaid would grow the economy.
Still, it’s nice to hear the state’s top Democrat talking about something other than growing welfare — even if it’s a thinly veiled messaging strategy designed to prevent another electoral slaughter in 2016.
But they’ll need to do more than drive up to the County and prattle about jobs if they hope to move beyond where they are right now, which is Irrelevanceville.
LePage captured that irrelevance after Democrats unveiled an “economic” plan: “I don’t pay attention to their agenda,” he said. “I got plenty to keep me busy.”
What’s keeping him busy presently is a quiet battle with conservatives over his budget.
Conservatives are wary of supporting a budget that increases the sales tax, among other provisions, even if the proposal lowers the overall tax burden by nearly $300 million.
Critics say this “civil war” is bad news for LePage and for the Republican Party more broadly.
They’re dead wrong.
That Eves and his senate counterparts are now silently acquiescing to LePage’s budget means the most impactful policy battle is happening entirely on the right.
And as a result, we’re now seeing a fundamental realignment of Maine’s political discourse.
Rather than debating whether to lower taxes and spending, we’re debating how. Rather than taking broadsides from whiny liberals in the liberal newspapers, the LePage administration is working behind the scenes to assuage conservatives’ concerns.
Paul LePage won reelection. He won big. And now he’s going to win big on tax reform.