When it comes to U.S. history or the Constitution, Gov. Paul LePage has shown a shocking lack of knowledge.
He should be embarrassed. He should be ashamed.
During his weekly radio appearance on WVOM, LePage attacked U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who risked his life to end the Jim Crow era in the South. Lewis was attacked because he has questioned the legitimacy of the presidential election that will install Donald Trump.
He then completely botched the history of the end of slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow.
“John Lewis ought to look at history,” LePage said. “It was Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves. It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant who fought the Jim Crow laws. A simple thank you would suffice.”
The Bangor Daily News rightly provided a history lesson.
The history books will remember John Lewis, his leadership and his courage. He owes no apology and has earned the right to say what he believes — even if the governor finds it distasteful.
In the same radio appearance, LePage also took aim at two other Maine leaders, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and U.S. Sen. Angus King.
Pingree announced Monday during an MLK Day event that she would not attend the Trump inauguration later this week. King plans to attend, but LePage says he’s thinking about running against him in 2018, and his actions would suggest he’s readying a run.
“If she won’t attend on Friday, I would advise her to resign,” LePage said. “To me that’s political rhetoric. Donald Trump is blunt, he comes out and says it the way it is and that’s why he got elected. Chellie Pingree, Angus King … we’re sick of these silver-tongued people.”
According to The Washington Post, at least 44 members of Congress are skipping the inauguration, largely based on Trump’s attacks against Lewis.
And in terms of what voters are sick of, new polling shows that the shine has already worn off Trump. He’s entering office deeply unpopular, and people have little faith that he has the skills to be an effective leader.
In September, The Washington Post called on LePage to resign, pointing to LePage’s “assaults on decent governance and public civility” and specifically his notion that blacks and Hispanics are “the enemy.”
Since then, he’s done nothing to rehabilitate himself, as evidenced by his attack on Lewis.
What’s challenging about LePage — and Trump — is that their words matter. They empower dangerous people and give permission for hatred. We have an obligation to call them out.
But at the same time, the words also distract from his policy proposals, which are dramatic and terrible.
The governor released his proposed budget, which includes massive handouts for the rich, cuts for education and an assault on health care for low-income Mainers.
The budget was not well-received by the Legislature, which will likely rewrite significant portions of it, just as they have for LePage’s entire tenure.
The governor is also working hard to block the will of the people with his continued opposition to four citizen initiatives that voters passed in November. From tax policy and education, to marijuana and a living wage to election reform, the governor has shown a complete disregard for voters.
Our challenge is this: We can’t allow the governor to obscure his bad policies with outrageous statements on talk radio or at town hall meetings, but we also have to hold him account for the terrible things he says — whether they’re bold-faced lies or nasty, hateful rhetoric.
The governor has made a calculation, which so far has been proven correct, that he can say and do whatever he wants without consequences.
Maine voters support a higher minimum wage.
More than a thousand people turned out — with Pingree — on Saturday because Maine voters want more people to have health insurance, not fewer.
Mainers want a fair budget that doesn’t favor the wealthy and does invest in our children. And they want election reform that doesn’t reward LePage’s brand of division.
We know because the voters have shown us at the ballot box.
More and more voters in Maine are awake, and they can pay attention to foul words and foul deeds at the same time.