LePage should reach out a hand, instead isn’t lifting a finger

When Hurricane Sandy left his state in ruins, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a partisan bulldog if there ever has been one, put aside politics in order to put the people of his state first.

If only Maine Gov. Paul LePage could learn from his example when dealing with the lives of people affected by having no, or inadequate, health care.

In the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Christie embraced President Barack Obama and his response to the devastation brought by the deadly storm.

Now Christie, a star in the national Republican Party and a potential presidential contender in 2016, is under fire from some conservative donors and members of his own party who question his actions. A few are even blaming Christie for Obama’s re-election over former Gov. Mitt Romney.

Iowa Republican operative Douglas E. Gross told the New York Times this week that Christie’s actions “hurt him a lot. The presumption is that Republicans can’t count on him.”

A Romney adviser, in the same article, blamed Christie for allowing “Obama to be president, not a politician.”

Romney lost his bid for the presidency for many reasons, such as questionable business practices, lack of detailed policy positions on the budget, taxation and foreign policy, willingness to change his positions on social issues to fit his circumstances, mistreatment of a young classmate and strapping his dog to the top of his car.

Romney did not lose because Christie – an effective surrogate and staunch Republican – cooperated with the president in response to an unprecedented natural disaster.

He lost because he was the lesser candidate who did not lead an effective campaign and because he could not convince a majority of American voters that he was a better choice.

Christie acted responsibly and with compassion for the tens of thousands of people who had their lives uprooted by Sandy.

Christie took Obama’s hand because a crisis demanded it.

Now, if only his example could be a model for other issues.

Not every crisis is created equally. A massive hurricane that rips through a community, killing scores and leaving many more homeless, is easy to recognize. The cause is simple to identify.

Our country is in the midst of a slow-moving crisis of increasing poverty, declining access to health care and stagnant job creation. Working families are having a harder time just keeping up, and for too many bankruptcy and financial ruin are just a medical emergency away. Poverty among children is at unacceptable levels.

But because the crisis has grown, inch by inch, family by family, over decades, it doesn’t capture our attention like a thousand-mile-wide storm barreling up the East Coast.

Instead, it becomes fertile ground for partisanship and political gamesmanship.

While thousands of Mainers go without health insurance – and suffer the consequences – LePage refuses to take even rudimentary steps to implement the federal Affordable Care Act.

“I’m not lifting a finger,” LePage told Bloomberg News.

Given the governor’s outbursts, perhaps LePage’s willingness not to lift a finger should be seen as an improvement over this more typical outbursts.

LePage and other Republican governors have sued to stop Obamacare. Their allies have launched a thousand ships of negative attacks against Obama and done everything under the sun to delegitimize the president and one of his signature domestic policy accomplishments.

Yet, despite a heated national election, hundreds of millions of dollars of ghost-money attacks, a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court and dozens of repeal votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, the president and the Affordable Care Act still stand.

LePage and other Republican governors have turned their backs on provisions in the Affordable Care Act that would make health insurance more affordable and that would provide health care to thousands of people who are today without it.

They are ignoring the crisis in their own states, the foul wind that blows families toward insecurity, destitution and, in the worst cases, even death.

But the good news for LePage and his Republican colleagues, who met last week in Las Vegas, is that they are still on the good side of donors. LePage need not worry about being considered in the same “league” as Christie by disgruntled GOP donors or by voters.

In his sharply worded letter to the Obama administration, saying Maine would not create a health insurance exchange to help people buy more affordable insurance, the governor offered “to work with your administration in finding workable, effective reforms and market solutions.”

Like the governor said, I don’t think he intends to lift a finger.