Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, with an assist from Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook) and House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, has continued her streak as the most partisan ideologue to ever inhabit the Blaine House.
By orchestrating yet another partisan budget, she has once again shown that, for all her talk of bipartisanship, she’s interested only in getting her way and enforcing a left-wing agenda.
Yet the budget maneuver last week came as a genuine surprise to many veteran Republicans who assumed Democrats were negotiating in good faith.
Sen. Rick Bennett (R-Oxford), the Republican lead on the Appropriations Committee, said he thinks the budget process is broken.
But Mills, Jackson, and Ross would disagree.
For authoritarian Democrats, this is exactly how government is supposed to work: You acquire political power, and you use it; you use it to punish your enemies and reward your friends. And that’s precisely what they’ve done. It’s precisely what they will soon do with more bloated supplemental spending. It’s precisely what they will continue to do so long as they are in power because they see Republicans as enemies. Not as colleagues with whom they disagree about tax policy, but as enemies.
Nonetheless, the “let’s compromise” and “embrace bipartisanship” and “work together” members of the House and Senate Republican caucuses — the Genteel Republicans — can sleep with soothed consciences knowing that they tried it the old fashioned way, the “right” way.
Now what? What do Republicans do now that the Genteel GOP approach to governing as a minority party has been repudiated? And not for the first time, mind you.
Mills did exactly the same thing in 2021. A year later she falsely claimed in debates with LePage that she passed a bipartisan budget.
It didn’t matter what was true because it worked.
Jackson created strawmen on the radio last week, falsely claiming negotiations fell apart because Republicans wanted tax cuts for the rich. And will it matter that it wasn’t true? Probably not.
The only thing that will matter is whether Republicans are capable of learning and adapting to the new era of partisan politics Mills has made the new normal in Maine.
Here’s what Republicans need to understand about their Democratic colleagues:
They don’t respect you. They’re not interested in compromise.
They barely let you ask questions at committee hearings.
They don’t consider your bills in good faith. Sure, some moderate might vote for your bill, but later that afternoon she’ll leave a leadership office in tears. Then they’ll reschedule another vote so she can “get it right.”
If you don’t support Medicaid for illegal aliens, they’ll call you a racist.
If you don’t want pornography in elementary school libraries, you’re a homophobe.
If you don’t want taxpayer-funded double mastectomies for kindergartners in the name of gender ideology, they’ll smear you as a transphobe.
Did you speak up at a school board meeting? They will label you a domestic terrorist.
Want tax relief for poor working Mainers? They will lie about you on the radio, as Jackson did so brazenly this week.
They will claim to be negotiating in good faith while planning all along to shove down your throats whatever they damn well please. And then they’ll pop champagne afterward and have a good yuck about those gullible rubes on the other side.
Now that this is the undeniable reality of the state of play in Maine politics, what will Republicans do?