Gov. Paul LePage brought props to his town hall circus, this one in Bath last week.
He and his staff spent their time and state resources to create fake “Wanted” posters for three of the governor’s political opponents.
When LePage’s “Wanted” posters showed up on social media, I had two immediate reactions: “Hey, how come he didn’t make one for me?” and “Boy, that’s really silly and beneath a sitting governor.”
But then I read a quote from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who was talking about protesters, and LePage’s silly little posters started to look a lot darker.
During his rallies, Trump loves to attack protesters and anyone who disagrees with him. At one event, he offered to pay the legal bills for anyone who would teach a protester a lesson. He’s upped the ante by suggesting he’d pay to defend a supporter who sucker punched a protester.
And then there’s this quote: “Our country has to toughen up folks. We have to toughen up. These people are bringing us down. They are bringing us down. These people are so bad for our country, you have no idea.”
Ezra Klein, writing for the online magazine Vox, used the quote as part of an OpEd describing Trump’s ideology of violence. Klein goes on to make the compelling argument that Trump’s campaign is rooted in ultra-nationalism and violence.
People at Trump’s rallies “are told that America is no longer great. They are told who to blame. They are told that the reason these losers are dragging America down is we have become too politically correct, too scared, too weak, to stop them. They are told Trump will pay their legal fees if they want to do what’s necessary. ‘There used to be consequences,’ Trump sighs. The crowd knows what he’s asking. Make Consequences Real Again.
“This is ugly, but it is coherent. What Trump is offering is an explanation and a solution; an argument and an ideology. It is dangerous, and it is violent, but it is not confusing, and it is not unclear.”
This is exactly what LePage is doing.
In his “Wanted” posters, LePage singles out three progressive activists (all of whom I consider friends and colleagues) — Ben Chin, former mayoral candidate in Lewiston and political director of the Maine People’s Alliance; Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO; and Nick Bennett, a scientist with the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
The posters call the men “job killers,” accuse them of funding “socialist campaigns” and all sorts of other unsavory activities.
When asked about the posters by the Portland Press Herald, Peter Steele, the governor’s minister of propaganda, said he expected criticism from “liberals and socialists who support job-killing agendas.”
And he threatened that more posters would be coming, to “shine a light on which groups are consistently denying economic opportunity to the Maine people.”
LePage has endorsed Trump for president, and he brags that he showed the way for the violent racist’s political strategy, though he describes it a bit differently. “I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular, so I think I should support him since we’re one of the same cloth.”
LePage travels around Maine, telling anyone who will listen that the state stinks. And during his theatrics, he tells people who to blame: other state lawmakers, liberals, socialists, black men, people from away, refugees.
Now, he’s calling out individuals with mock “Wanted” posters. He calls real people “killers” and blames all sorts of economic troubles on them. Why?
Because he’s hoping that someone will do something about it.
The old, western-style wanted posters the governor’s propaganda is based upon used to include a bounty and detail how the person should be delivered — “dead or alive.”
This isn’t the first time the governor has incited violence. He called for armed Mainers to take the law into their own hands and to protect the state from drug dealers — whom he helpfully identified as black men from away who come here to impregnate white girls.
Such actions and language are beneath the office of the governor, and they offend common decency.
LePage, a man protected day and night by state troopers, with the power of the entire executive branch behind him enjoys nothing more than attacking people with less power — low-income families, refugees and asylum seekers and people who have been marginalized by society.
Now, he’s punching at three men who don’t have the trappings of his office or the power that comes with it but who can hold their own.
LePage loves a fight. This time, though, it looks like he wants someone else to fight it for him. Just like Trump.